Wire­less USB: the ques­tion no­body asked

Windows 7 Help & Advice - - FEATURE -

In 2005, we were promised wire­less USB. The idea seemed sound enough at the time. The USB Im­ple­menters Fo­rum still has a page trum­pet­ing the project. It points out that there are (or rather were – it is an old page) two bil­lion wired USB de­vices. Wire­less USB would bring the speed and se­cu­rity of a wired con­nec­tion to­gether with the ease of use of wire­less. It would use Ul­tra-wide­band (UWB) ra­dio tech­nol­ogy to es­tab­lish a short range con­nec­tion be­tween a host and a de­vice. At around three me­tres, it would of­fer USB 2.0 speeds. Per­for­mance dropped off with dis­tance, down to a quar­ter of that at nine me­tres or more.

Un­for­tu­nately, this proved to be a trou­ble­some project. The reg­u­la­tions sur­round­ing UWB are dif­fer­ent all around the world, and there was lots of pa­per­work and ne­go­ti­a­tion to be done. It wasn’t un­til 2007 that any­thing was ready to launch; Belkin got as far as sell­ing the gear. It proved unim­pres­sive, data rates weren’t as good as ex­pected, and the range was lim­ited, down to 1.8 me­tres for de­cent trans­fer rates. Sales did noth­ing, and it died.

There was a rather ob­vi­ous prob­lem with the con­cept: Wi-Fi. All of the ma­jor PC pe­riph­er­als had al­ready gone wire­less: cheaply, with a de­cent range, and much faster. Iron­i­cally, USB proved the ideal port for the £20 Wi-Fi adapters it used. There’s an­other fly in the oint­ment: no power. Cut off from the ca­ble, your wire­less USB hub needs a power source, so you need yet an­other trans­former plugged in at the wall. Ac­tu­ally, if it’s not too far away from your sys­tem, the best bet would be a USB ca­ble. Oh, no – hang on. Quite. There was ac­tu­ally a sec­ond stab at get­ting wire­less USB go­ing, around 2013. It was rad­i­cally al­tered and called Me­dia Ag­nos­tic USB this time. The con­cept used a range of Wi-Fi fre­quen­cies and stan­dards. Un­for­tu­nately, the horse they were flog­ging was dead after all.

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