Unwiring the USB cord

Installed on more than 500 million PCs worldwide, the Universal Serial Bus supplies easy connectivity for everything from printers to MP3 players. Now the USB Implementers' Forum has set the stage for wireless USB.

Last May, the group published the Wireless USB Specification, a document describing how devices could harness the Wireless USB protocol. Everyone from Intel Corp. to start-ups like Alereon Inc. of Austin, Texas, are preparing interoperable Wireless USB components. Expect products carrying the 'Certified Wireless USB' logo by this fall, said Jeff Ravencraft, chairman of the USB Implementers Forum.

To transport the data, Wireless USB relies on the new Orthogonal Frequency Division Modulation Method. Multiband OFDM is based on Ultra Wideband, which was recently blessed by the Federal Communications Commission for low-powered transmissions. Expect a throughput of 480 Mbps at about three meters and 110 Mbps at 10 meters. (Wireless USB will not supply power, however, unlike its cabled predecessor.)

In fact, some wireless USB implementations are already on the market, using chips from Freescale Semiconductor Inc. of Austin, Texas. Companies such as Belkin Corp. of Compton, Calif., are hoping to capture the market with wireless USB adapters before the 'Certified Wireless USB' releases hit. These products don't work to the Forum's specs, warned Ravencraft, and carry no guarantee of interoperability. On the other hand, they're available now.

About the Author

Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.

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