Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Q'comm incubates Wibree killer

Just when you thought the fragmentation in personal area networks was easing a bit, Qualcomm tips its plans to roll out a new PAN technology. I don't have a name or any specs, but Len Lauer, a Qualcomm group president, told me after a panel discussion at the AlwaysOn Stanford Summit that the company will have out in the market next year a new short-range wireless net now in its labs.

The Q'com PAN will compete with Wibree, developed by Nokia. Like Wibree it will have much lower power than Bluetooth, and target applications such as sensor networks. It will also not need line-of-sight to make connections. "It's similar to Wibree, but we think it's better," Lauer told me.

There's a lot at stake. Designers see the cellphone as a natural gateway for a wealth of consumer devices that will have always-on links to PANs.

It's not surprising Qualcomm is going its own way here, especially when Nokia—engaged in an intellectual property battle with Qualcomm--has a claim on the underlying Wibree technology. Qualcomm has a history of ambitiously doing its own thing, for example developing its own mobile TV technology rather than adopting the DVB-H standard.

Still this is a curve ball to the industry. Just weeks ago the Bluetooth SIG struck a deal with Nokia to bring Wibree under its umbrella. So a lot of people will be frustrated to see another potential source of fragmentation and competition in this space.

Know more about the Qualcomm PAN technology? Post a comment or drop me a line at rbmerrit@cmp.com

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