March 6, 2006 5:18 PM PST

Wireless USB devices arriving by September

SAN FRANCISCO--The first devices using a wireless version of the Universal Serial Bus connection technology will begin arriving in the third quarter, the leader of an industry group overseeing the standard said Monday.

Wireless USB promises help for consumers frustrated with PCs sprouting a profusion of cables linking their PCs with printers, digital cameras, music players and external disk drives, said Jeff Ravencraft, chairman of the USB Implementers Forum and an Intel technology strategist. Wireless USB permits the same 480 megabits-per-second data transfer speed as the current wired USB 2.0 standard, but requires small radios inside PCs or devices rather than the cables.

"Early movers are going to be external hard drives, cameras and printers," Ravencraft said in an interview here on the eve of the Intel Developer Forum. "You'll begin to see products move in the third quarter through the back half of the year."

To make wireless USB practical, though, some aspects of the technology had to be ironed out. On Monday, the USB standards group announced a new element to that work, the Wireless Association Specification that makes sure only authorized connections are made between PCs and devices.

USB has caught on widely as a way to connect cameras, scanners, mobile phones, PDAs (personal digital assistants), DVD burners and innumerable other devices to PCs. The Wireless Association Specification governs how the PC end of the wireless USB connection will be able to connect to as many as 127 devices, Ravencraft said.

There likely will be a learning curve in the arrival of wireless USB. The specification requires one of two ways to set up the association between a device and the PC so the connection can be used. In one, the two are connected by a cable initially and set up their association for future wireless links. In the other, the device will show a number that the user then has to type into the PC.

Wireless USB uses an underlying wireless communication technology called ultrawideband (UWB). Where 802.11g uses a relatively narrow frequency range centered on 2.4GHz radio waves, UWB uses a very broad range from 3.1GHz to 10.6GHz, Ravencraft said. The UWB signal levels are low enough that it appears to be noise to other radio communication technology.

Wireless networking using a separate technology known as Wi-Fi or by its standard number, 802.11, has caught on widely in notebook computers. It even is shipping in some cameras from Nikon and Canon. Wireless USB is a different technology, however, and gadget makers are keen to embrace it for its relative simplicity and the fact that it consumes about half the power of 802.11.

"With very high-end phones and cameras, you're starting to see 802.11. The issue in those mobile devices is the battery power and cost of battery life in implementing that," Ravencraft said. "The cell phone and camera guys see UWB as a very good solution for point-to-point connections with very low power."

Wireless USB runs at full 480mbps speed only when a device is within about 10 feet of a computer. Beyond that but still within the maximum 30-foot distance, the transfer rate drops to 110mbps. However, wireless USB later will reach 1 gigabit-per-second speeds and faster, Ravencraft said.

The UWB radio communication is useful for more than just wireless USB. It also can be used simultaneously for wireless Bluetooth links, IEEE 1394 "Firewire" links and even WiNet short-range Internet Protocol networks.

Initially, wireless USB will require an add-in card or plug-in device for a PC to use it. Eventually it will be built in, then integrated gradually more tightly with computing electronics, the same path wired USB took, Ravencraft said.

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4 comments

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Great. More HOLES in the PC security.
Yes, make it friendly.

Let it broadcast like a loose **** so that it can hook up with just about anybody.

Much like that Centrino lunacy that have the users' PC automatically looking for a "soul mate". Even when the user doesn't knowingly want it.
Posted by kamwmail-cnet1 (292 comments )
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Who is living you your attic?
Are you crazy? The broadcast range is 30 feet, so unless some cerial killer is hiding in your attic, how is this a security problem? It can only be done if someone is in short range, and if they can get that close, that means they want to really mess up your computer, and people who actually want to do that have very little problems.

How is this any different then a wired USB anyways?

Please, this is awesome! This will finaly alow Computers to stop being these large pieces of junk rusting around somewhere, this actually can finaly help computers become the "central hub", that is where computers are moving, to the electronic hub, and this makes it that much easier, your PDA, camara, internet (802.11? Who needs it in your house if your computer is within 30 feet of your hub?), iPod, its wonderfull!

USB I think is one of best examples of something in computers that WORKS. Years of research, and the damn thing works amazingly well. Look at it, its Plug and Play, what soon it'll be up to a gig a second data transfer? Thats so awesome, and now wireless, I love it!
Posted by jzsaxpc (43 comments )
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