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Ultra-wideband faces the end

Intel pulls out and start-ups merge.

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Staccato and Artimi, two pioneers of the fast wireless technology ultra-wideband (UWB) are to merge. The news, coming on top of Intel's decision to pull out of the technology, and the failure of other UWB players, has led to predictions of doom for the technology.

Ultrawideband promised super-fast (480Mbit/s) short-range wireless connections, and was adopted as a wireless successor to USB, as well as for faster Bluetooth. However, Wireless USB products based on early silicon have been costly and performed poorly - most delivering around 50Mbit/s according to reports.

The Bluetooth community has adopted Wi-Fi as an easier fast option.

"People shouldn't have rushed out a sub-standard product," said Dennis Laudick, product manager of then-independent Artimi, at the Blutooth Evolution conference in London on 21 October. "The standards should not have defined a retrofit market [UWB dongles plug into existing USB sockets]." He predicted big improvements in the next six months, and even a resurgence of interest in running Bluetooth over UWB.

Staccato and Artimi both benefitted from a glut of venture capital funding which went into UWB around 2003 and 2004, but which is now drying up. Staccato has developed a single UWB chip, which has been approved by UWB standards maker the Wimedia Alliance and is apparently ready for production. The original investors in the two companies have given the merged company another $20 million to keep going, and plan to slim the combined company down to 85 people (Staccato alone currently has around 75) according to the San Diego Business Journal.

Intel's withdrawal from UWB emerged earlier this month. The company quietly cancelled a five year research programme in UWB, with links to its 1480 UWB chipset removed. Intel is still apparently on the board of UWB standard maker, the Wimedia Alliance, unlike Texas Instruments which pulled out in May. Both Intel and TI are now shifting their emphasis to Wi-Fi.class="MsoNormal">Fabless UWB chipmaker WiQuest closed this month, and another UWB vendor, Alereon snapped up the UWB business (software drivers, apparently) from Stonestreet One.


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