ultra wideband

Ultra-Wideband technology: Can it replace NFC and Bluetooth?

When Samsung launched the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, it also unveiled a new feature called ultra-wideband technology. This is the second handset after Apple iPhone 11 to support the ultra-wideband wireless communication standard.

UWB is a new technology similar to NFC Bluetooth. It promises capabilities identical to these technologies but has its own unique set of pros and cons. The feature is set to be adopted by most mobile devices in the coming years. So here is everything you need to know about Ultra-wideband technology.

What is UWB and how does it work

UWB is similar to how wireless data transfers work. It’s a pulse pattern radio-based technology that sends data and time in the spectrum ranging from 3.1 to 10.6 GHz. Simple conventional wireless transmissions vary the power, frequency, or phase rather than simple pulses.

The name ultra-wideband comes as the pulse method takes up a lot more spectrum to work reliably. A single band frequency is typically 500 Mhz wide, so UWB can hit data rates from 4 Mbps to 675 Mbps. This data rate is faster than NFC’s 424 kbps and Bluetooth’s 2.1 Mbps speeds. But it is behind Wi-Fi 6, which has achieved a data transfer speed of 2 Gbps.

Typically wireless technologies are limited to narrow bands to avoid interfering with each other. Ultra-wideband technology avoids this problem by operating at very low power. In simple words, the spectrum is so broad that it is easy to detect but has low enough power that it doesn’t interfere with other signals.

How does it work against NFC and Bluetooth

Now let me remind you that what ultra-wideband brings to the table can already be done using existing NFC and Bluetooth technologies. So this begs the question, why bother with another wireless technology?

Bluetooth operates in the same range that most Wi-Fi signals operate in our houses, so it is more susceptible to interference. Ultra-wideband has a wide spectrum, and so it is less prone to interference; therefore, it has been adopted early in some industrial applications.

The advantage that NFC and Bluetooth both have are there inexpensive to implement, particularly for low-power beacons. At the same time, ultra-wideband is not as cost-effective and also does require a lot of power. As a result, you will still be able to make wireless payments with NFC for a long time. Bluetooth also offers a wide range of support audio functionality and longer range, which ultra-wideband can’t. Therefore, for the time being, NFC and Bluetooth will likely remain popular.

Ultra-wideband offers high-speed data transfer location with high accuracy and less risk of interference. This makes it the best option for conditions that require additional security, such as wireless access to vehicles. Every technology has its pros and cons, and ultra-wideband is similar, so it is not a replacement for any existing wireless technologies in the market.

Which devices support ultra-wideband

The technology has been around for a little while but in some of the latest smartphones only. It is limited to some of the most expensive devices on the market right now. This list includes the following smartphones.

  • Apple iPhone 11
  • Apple iPhone 11 Pro
  • Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra

Ultra-wideband is only as good as the devices that support it. It might take many years to reach this technology a wider audience. For now, we can expect flagship smartphones like this to include ultra-wideband, but more affordable smartphones won’t have this feature at least for a few years.