Time Domain makes pitch for ultra-wideband

The head of a leading ultra-wideband (UWB) developer showed off the technology's potential before a congressional subcommittee Thursday, urging to have it approved for commercial development.

Ralph Petroff, president and chief executive officer of Time Domain Corp., told members of the House Armed Services Committee's Military Research and Development Subcommittee that UWB can only really work for the military if the Federal Communications Commission approves it for commercial development.

"In order for the benefits of UWB to be fully realized by the U.S. military, a parallel commercial path for products must be established, and it is critically important for UWB to be available as a commercial off-the-shelf technology," Petroff said as part of testimony submitted to the subcommittee. "Otherwise, the development costs for new chips and applications will be too expensive, and the benefits of UWB will be limited only to select applications within the defense establishment."

UWB approval has been hung up on concerns that it might interfere with signals from the Global Positioning System, a satellite-based locator system used extensively by aviation, maritime and military users. Last year, the FCC issued a notice of proposed rulemaking on UWB, which was followed by public comment periods and numerous tests to see how compatible the technology is with GPS.

Petroff noted that UWB's compatibility with GPS is in his company's best interest. "We are committed to ensuring that our technology will not cause harmful interference with GPS and other safety-of-life services," he said. "It is not only the right public policy position, but also it is the only feasible business position for our company. Our military and commercial customers are demanding that GPS and UWB operate in a compatible manner."

UWB holds promise as a communications tool, advanced radar and precise positioning system, Petroff said.

During the hearing, Petroff showed subcommittee members what UWB can do. For example, he transmitted real-time video images being filmed outside the closed hearing room to a monitor sitting next to him, which he said was accomplished at one ten-thousandth of the power it takes to operate his cellular phone.

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