The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is preparing to approve a breakthrough wireless technology called ultra-wideband. The technology is backed by Intel, Sony, and several other big names in consumer electronics.

Ultra-wideband technology has the potential to provide very high-speed wireless Internet access in addition to helping someone track an intruder with radar, assist rescuers in finding earthquake victims and improving collision-avoidance systems. The technology has been in development for more than a decade and has been bitterly opposed by both airlines and cell phone manufacturers. Both say the new technology could interfere with their communication systems. Bruce Franca, acting chief of the FCC’s office of engineering, says he is hopeful that an accord can be reached and that the FCC will approve the technology next month.

Last year, the FCC granted temporary permission to use ultra-wideband devices to locate victims of the World Trade Center collapse. The agency is considering permanent approval under the guidelines that allow cordless phones and baby monitors. Consumer products could be on the market as early as later this year.

Ultra-wideband technology works on an unusual method, sending out low power radio energy bursts over a broad range of frequencies currently used by cell phones and satellites; it is a form of radar. Detractors claim the technology causes interference, but the FCC counters that the power output is so low—measured in fractions of a watt—that it can’t cause any real trouble.

Ultra-wideband signals are difficult to intercept, giving users great security, especially when digitally encrypted. The technology can be used to track personnel and communicate with them securely; for this reason the technology is of great interest to military and law enforcement.

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