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Ultra Wideband (UWB) is one of the most exciting technologies in the wireless world today, but it's been fraught with controversy since its inception. On this page, we have a variety of resource information on UWB, including reference books, links, and an interview with one of the key UWB players. Scroll down the page, or jump to one of the topics listed below.

This table lists the complete contents of all three of our UWB pages. For information on Ground Penetrating Radar, one of the interesting applications of UWB technology, see our GPR Page.
Contents of Page 1
UWB News

Contents of Page 2
UWB Resources
Contents of Page 3
UWB Rulemaking - The Smartest Place to Buy and Sell More

  Additional UWB Information Links

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SSS Online Interview with Dr. Robert Fontana of Multispectral Solutions

by Jim Pearce, Director, Pegasus Technologies

In December 2000, I had the pleasure of speaking with Dr. Robert Fontana about Ultra Wideband (UWB). Bob is the President of Multispectral Solutions, Inc. (MSSI) of Germantown, MD. We had a far-ranging conversation on the technical and business aspects of UWB. Our conversation is summarized below.

Q: How long has MSSI been involved with UWB?

A: We started UWB work in 1984. At first we also used impulse excited antennas like some UWB proponents are still doing now. When you use this solid state analog of a "spark gap" approach, the spectrum of the radiated RF is essentially determined by the antenna and you have very little control over it. This makes it very hard to prevent interference to other radios. For the last six years we have utilized a form of UWB where the spectral content of the pulses are determined by electronics using tapering and shaping. This lets us tailor the spectrum of the RF before it goes to the antenna.

Q.What about the concern that UWB might interfere with GPS reception? Would you comment on that?

A. Yes, interference is quite possible with impulse excited antenna UWB transmitters. Public reply comments on the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking published in May to allow UWB were due in to the FCC October 27, 2000. I think that the only way that the FCC will allow impulse excited antenna UWB transmitters is at a very, very low power level. There have been a couple of studies of the power levels at which a UWB transmitter will interfere with GPS and PCS. These have had conflicting conclusions, but one of them was commissioned by a party with a vested interest in the outcome. This same party was startled when a major PCS service provider found that impulse excited antenna UWB had a very detrimental impact on their PCS quality.

Q. What were MSSI's recommendations to the FCC on the future of UWB?

A. We believe that the FCC should allow UWB, but should push it up to above 3GHz. This way it will be above the critical frequencies for GPS and PCS and will be a win-win for both UWB and GPS users.

Q. Some companies are using a form of pulse position modulation to encode data on their UWB signals. Is this the modulation technique that MSSI uses?

A. No. They move a pulse a few picoseconds before or after it should arrive and code binary data this way. The problem with this is that multipath environments will cause delay spreads of up to several hundred nanoseconds. This will not only cause the data to be decoded improperly, but also will cause the receiver to lose sync.

Q. What modulation technique does MSSI use?

A. We use a very simple amplitude modulation on/off keying. Using our tunnel quantum detector, we find this to be a very satisfactory method of sending data. It's very similar to the way that optical fiber systems work. Of course, optical fiber also uses wavelength division multiplexing. We can also do this, since we can control the center frequency of our UWB signal.

Q. Some UWB companies use PN codes to encode the time between pulses. Do you do this?

A. No, we use the on/off keying at a fixed pulse repetition rate, and transmit data in short packets. We also use pulse dithering for some of our more specialized systems.

Q. Who are MSSI's customers for UWB?

A. For our first 10 years, the work was classified at a fairly high level. We did a lot of "spook" work. Since 1995, much of the new work was done at the unclassified level. The vast majority of our work continues to be for the U.S. government and military.

Q. What do you think are the most exciting applications for UWB in the future?

A. We think that the really exciting possibilities for UWB are where communication, radar, and position localization can all be combined in small devices -- applications like tagging vehicles or even a device that would help blind people navigate by identifying obstacles and having position tags that would let them know, for example, that they are at the east entrance of Sears.

Q. How about ID tag location?

A. I'm glad that you mentioned that. You know that the Navy had tons of stuff that they moved to Saudi Arabia during the Gulf War. There were billions of dollars of goods that they couldn't find. To avoid this problem in the future, the Navy asked us to participate in a program to develop ID tags that could locate crates on ships to sub-foot resolutions. Another company using conventional spread spectrum also participated, but they could not achieve the type of resolution achievable with our UWB system.

Q. Do you think UWB will be widely used for high speed data?

A. There are definite issues with using UWB for very high speed data. For instance, since the receive bandwidth is high, KTB (Boltzman's Constant, times temperature, times bandwidth) noise is also high. Also, channelization can be difficult with UWB since such wide instantaneous bandwidths are used. This being said, UWB does have great potential for high speed, wireless communications -- particularly in the presence of multipath -- with the proper architecture.

Q. What distinguishes MSSI from other companies in the UWB field?

A. We have been building UWB systems for more than 11 years. We are not a start-up and we are not funded by venture capital. We don't have shareholders to satisfy, so we can concentrate on satisfying our clients. We have successfully performed on dozens of projects, each of which has resulted in tangible and useful hardware.

Q: Thank you, Dr. Fontana. It's been a pleasure talking to you.

A: It's been my pleasure.

  Fontana picture
Dr. Robert J. Fontana

Dr. Fontana, MSSI's founder, earned a BSEE with honors from the Illinois Institute of Technology, receiving a fellowship to study at the Institut National des Sciences Appliquées (Lyon, France) during his junior year. He received the SMEE degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a Ph.D. degree in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University. Bob has over twenty-eight years of experience in the areas of signal processing, high-speed digital design, microwave/RF design, and ultra wideband technology.

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  UWB News Archive

The articles below are getting a little long in the tooth, but they're stil full of good background information and provide a better understanding of what's happening with UWB in the present. For the latest news, be sure to check out our UWB Page 1: Ultrawideband News.
  • "FCC Unphased by UWB," Unstrung News Analysis, March 24, 2003. Interesting article reporting FCC's "take" on the recent British report questioning whether UWB devices could affect 3G handsets based on the universal mobile telecommunications system (UMTS) standard by flooding them with signal noise should the two devices be near one another.

  • "Ultra-Wideband: Great Promise, But No Guarantees", by Gerry Blackwell, ISP-Planet, June 11, 2002. Good write-up about the promises and possible pitfalls of UWB.

  • UWB technology gets stuck in red tape — January 2000 article on UWB in Dated, but has an interesting writeup about the promise of UWB and the reasons for the regulatory snarl-ups. It's also pretty funny!

  • NY Times Article on UWB, December 21, 1998
    (you will have to use their FREE online registration script to read this article).


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Books on UWB Technology

Click on a Title Below for a Direct Link to Purchase

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Understanding Ultra Wide Band Radio Fundamentals, by Di Benedetto & Giancola . Hardcover, 528 pages (June 23, 2004). Our Price: Click for Price cover
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Ultra-Wideband Radar Technology, by James D. Taylor, Editor. Hardcover (September 15, 2000). Our Price: Click for Price
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The Art and Science of Ultra-Wideband Antennas, by Hans Schantz. Hardback, 331 pages (July 31, 2005). Our Price: Click for price

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Electromagnetic Signals : Reflection, Focusing, Distortion, and Their Practical Applications, by Henning F. Harmuth, et al. Hardcover (January 1999). Our Price: Click for Price

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Introduction to Ultra-Wideband Radar Systems, by James D. Taylor (Editor). Hardcover: 688 pages (December 16, 1994). Our Price: Click for price

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Ultra-Wideband Short-Pulse Electromagnetics 6: Uwb Sp6, by Eric L. Mokole, Mark Kragalott, and Karl R. Gerlach (Editors). Hardcover: 601 pages (January, 2004). Our Price: Click for Price

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Ultra-Wideband, Short-Pulse Electromagnetics 5, by Paul D. Smith and Shane Cloude (Editors). Hardcover: 762 pages (September 1, 2002). Our Price: Click for Price

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Ultra-Wideband, Short-Pulse Electromagnetics 4, by Ehud Heyman, Benjamin Mandelbaum, & Joseph Shiloh (Editors). Hardcover: 466 pages (October 1999). Our Price: Click for Price

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Ultra-Wideband, Short-Pulse Electromagnetics 3, Proceedings of the Third International Conference, by Lawrence Carin & Leopold B. Felsen, Editors. Hardcover, 510 pages (April 1997). Our Price: Click for Price

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Ultra-Wideband, Short-Pulse Electromagnetics 2, Proceedings of the Second International Conference Held at Weber Research Institute, Polytechnic University, by Lawrence Carin & Leopold B. Felsen, Editors. Hardcover (June 1995). Our Price: Click for Price

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Ultra-Wideband, Short-Pulse Electromagnetics - Proceedings of the Short-Pulse Electromagnet International Conference on Ultra-Wideband., Hardcover (July 1993). Our Price: Click for Price

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Ultra-Wideband Radar : Proceedings of the First Los Alamos Symposium, by Bruce Noel, Editor. Hardcover (September 1991). Our Price: Click for Price

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Related Topics on SSS Online

[SSS Online's Ground Penetrating Radar Page]

[SSS Online's Impulse Radio Stuff Page]

[SSS Online's Technical Briefings Archive]

[SSS Online's / Virginia Tech MPRG GLOMO Briefings Archive]

[SSS Online's .pdf File Archive]

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