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Parsing The Future of Wireless

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NEW ORLEANS — What’s the next big thing in wireless? What else? It’s still convergence, according to attendees at this week’s CTIA 2005 conference here.

Officials from Texas Instruments (TI), Philips, Fujitsu Network Communications, the Wi-Fi Alliance, Flarion Technologies and Freescale Semiconductor touted the holy grail of convergence, highlighting a number of next-generation technologies, such as Ultra Wide Band , WiMAX and Cognitive Radio.

Jon Adams, director of radio technology at Freescale
Semiconductor, said his company was looking at the convergence of myriad technologies into cellular. He also noted the inherent challenges for handset manufacturers.

“All those [technologies] will converge into the handset,” Adams said. “And we’re going to struggle with how we put all these radios into a
phone where the value proposition will be, ‘How do we
control the costs, and at the same time not have to carry a
nuclear reactor to keep them all running?'”

Bill Krenik, manager of wireless advanced architectures at TI, reminded the standing-room-only CTIA audience that TI’s single cell chips are part of the move toward doing more with less.

In terms of the next big thing, Krenik cited DVBH (Digital Video over Handset) as a technology to watch out for, as it is one that consumers will understand and embrace.

“Let’s face it. We’ve tried to sell consumers around the
world a lot of technologies that frankly they didn’t know
much about, had a hard time understanding and they really
didn’t know what benefit it could bring them,” Krenik
said. “TV on cell phones is something people

WiMAX was touted as one of the next big things by James
Orr, principal network architect of Fujitsu. He said WiMAX was the solution and would enable better connectivity for large metropolitan areas, backhauling and local multi-user coverage.

Another topic the panel discussed was the big future of UWB. The members agreed it will be a significant aspect of wireless communications, though Freescale, TI and Philips each support different specifications.

Freescale supports the UWB flavor sponsored by the UWB Forum, which
utilizes direct sequencing UWB (DS-UWB), whereas Philips
and TI are part of the opposing group at the newly merged MultiBand OFDM Alliance Special Interest Group

“Ultra Wide Band is a tremendously promising technology
that will change the way we don’t look at cables any more
for at least the next 20 years,” Freescale’s Adams

Paul Marino, vice president and general manager of connectivity at Philips Semiconductor, went so far as to note
that the future of Bluetooth will also be with UWB. He
expects the next step for Bluetooth will be the adoption
of the Bluetooth Software Profile scheme over UWB
bandwidth, which will improve connection between
various devices.

The panel also touched on a technology called Cognitive Radio, which could potentially solve the issue of limited spectrum availability.

Cognitive Radio is an advanced wireless technology
“idea” that would enable a cellular radio device to
“cognitively” adapt itself to use whatever spectrum may be
available in a particular operating environment.

“Cognitive radio is not the next big thing,” TI’s Krenik said. “It’s the thing after the next big thing.”

Freescale’s Adams notes that one of the issues with the
continued growth of wireless is that spectrum is going to
become scarce. That’s the issue that Cognitive Radio

“There is a lot of confusion about Cognitive Radio,” said Krenik. “Some
people think it’s a way to take away spectrum rights from
licensed holders, and nothing could be further from the
truth. Cognitive Radio, when developed, will be a net positive for everyone.”

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