Last week I went to an ex parte meeting with the FCC on behalf of Pulse~Link, Inc. They are a California company that has developed practical applications of ultrawideband technology. The purpose of the meeting was to let the FCC technical staff know of the existence of this technology because it solves some of the issues they are currently actively engaged with.
For those of you who have never been the FCC it is an interesting process. In a post-911 world the front of the building is blocked by concrete barriers. When you go through security they not only check your ID, but they give you a badge with your picture on it. Whenever you officially meet with the FCC staff or Commissioners to discuss anything industry related it’s considered an ex parte meeting. This means that a formal letter must be filed soon after the meeting to document who you met with and what you discussed. I like this process because it stops the large companies from lobbying staff without at least documenting the meeting. I have gathered some interesting information for my blog from the memos generated from ex parte meetings.
But this is a technology blog, so let me talk about the technology. Ultrawideband (UWB) is a technology that the FCC promoted for wireless applications in 2002 in Docket 02-48. Ultrawideband works at very high frequencies and is similar to 802.11ad in the wireless world. But Pulse~Link has been able to take this technology and put it onto any wired medium – coaxial cable, telephone copper or even electric wires. They are marketing this is a chipset, under the brand name CWave that can be used in a wide variety of existing devices.
The most exciting uses of the technology are on coaxial cable, and it is these uses that got me to this meeting. I see this as a disruptive and transformational technology. The best way to think of UWB is as DSL over coax. It can provide a separate and distinct Ethernet path far above the cable and data that are normally sent over coax, without any interference.
And the amount of data is significant. The chipset Pulse~Link has today has a raw data rate of 1.3 Gbps, or an effective throughput of about 450 Mbps. Today Pulse~Link can pair two of these chips to create nearly a full gigabit of extra bandwidth on a piece of coax. That is impressive and has a lot of immediate applications, but the real promise of the technology is the upgrade path. There is already a chip in the lab working at a raw rate of 5.4 Gbps. And by 2017 the company expects to have a chip that can operate at over 12 Gbps.
The immediate uses for the technology are for applications where additional bandwidth on coaxial cable can have an immediate market use. Consider the following:
- Distribute Increased Bandwidth in Schools. CWave can be used on the existing coaxial cable found in most schools to distribute large bandwidth to classrooms. One of the greatest challenges for schools identified in the FCC WC 13-184 docket is how to distribute big bandwidth from the wiring closet to the classroom. CWave can distribute large-pipe Ethernet at a fraction of the cost of newly wiring or rewiring schools with category 5 cable. CWave can help to stretch Schools and Libraries funding to cover a lot more schools.
- Higher Data Capacity on Cable Systems. CWave’s operates in RF Spectrum on coax that is normally considered unusable for traditional cable TV. This ability enables a second Ethernet path on existing HFC plant that does not interfere with existing programming or data. CWave offers an affordable alternative for rural and small-town cable systems to upgrade to gigabit data speeds at costs far lower than taking the traditional migration path through DOCSIS 3.0 and 3.1.
- Competition in MDUs. Because CWave operates above the frequency used by traditional cable TV, a service provider can use the technology over existing coaxial cable to offer broadband services inside MDUs without physically disturbing the incumbent cable provider. Almost all fiber over-builders, including Google, Verizon, CLECs and municipalities, have had encountered roadblocks in seeking to serve MDUs due to the high cost of rewiring. CWave can help bring competitive high-bandwidth services to this significant demographic.
- Bandwidth in Hospitals. Hospitals require ever-increasing bandwidth to support new medical equipment and technologies. Because of the complexity of the structures, hospitals are notoriously expensive to rewire. CWave can distribute bandwidth inside hospitals, particular the rural hospitals that are not wired with category 5 cable.