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Is Ultra-Wideband Finally Going Mainstream?

Belkin recently announced the release of their CableFree USB Hub, and this humble accessory could mean big things in the connected world. If you didn't know better, you'd likely glance at CableFree and yawn it away as just another wireless device, in the fashion of so many wireless keyboards and mice. Oh, but you'd be wrong.

What makes Belkin's latest offering exciting is the Ultra-Wideband (UWB) radio technology that enables data rates "100 times faster than Bluetooth." Given that Bluetooth typically runs at data rates well under 3Mbps, UWB needs to take it up an order of magnitude to deliver on the promise of USB speeds that range up to 480Mbps, and Belkin promises full USB 2 compatibility.

Interesting as Belkin's CableFree product may be, it's the backstory of UWB that could start to garner attention on a larger scale now that UWB has found a proven consumer market partner. Belkin has licensed UWB technology from Freescale Semiconductor, who along with bigger names like Intel, have been working the better part of a decade on figuring out how to leverage the extremely low power and high speeds at Personal Area Network distances into marketable products. There have been other UWB products released, but they haven't really generated the buzz that a widely-known name like Belkin can help create (you mean you haven't heard of the Memsen Click n' Share Keychain?).

Beyond speeds estimated to eventually approach Gigabit and relatively stingy power consumption, UWB is also a radio good neighbor--it does not interfere with WiFi or Bluetooth. Where it does share spectrum with other technologies, it is usually perceived as ambient noise, if it is recognized at all. If Belkin's experiment pans out and other device manufacturers catch on to the magic of UWB, the imagination runs wild with use cases from home entertainment and personal computing to networking closets and data centers.

Or do you prefer that tangled mess of patch cords?