Introduction to Wireless USB (WUSB)
By Gabriel Torres on August 20, 2008
Wireless USB (WUSB) products are finally arriving at the market and in this article you will learn more about this technology and see some usage examples.
The goal of wireless USB is to connect peripherals such as printers, external hard disk drives, sound cards, media players and even video monitors to the PC wirelessly. This can be done by two forms. If the PC and/or the device don’t have native support to WUSB, you must install a dongle to convert a standard USB port into WUSB. If the PC and/or the device already have native support to WUSB – i.e., they come with a WUSB antenna – no extra device is needed. Up to 127 peripherals can be connected using a single antenna on the PC.
The maximum theoretical transfer rate from WUSB is the same as USB 2.0: 480 Mbps (60 MB/s) if the device is within 3 meters (9.84 feet) from the PC or 110 Mbps (13.75 MB/s) if the device is within 10 meters (32.8 feet) from the PC. As you can see, the more distant the devices are from the PC, lower is the transfer rate.
Bluetooth is another wireless technology that allows the connection between the PC and peripherals without wires. At this time, however, Bluetooth is targeted to low-speed devices only, as its maximum transfer rate is of 1 Mbps (128 KB/s) or 3 Mbps (384 MB/s), depending on the Bluetooth generation (1 and 2 with EDR, Enhanced Data Rate, respectively). The next Bluetooth generation is scheduled to have the same transfer rate as WUSB, but this technology is not yet available.
Wireless USB works on the UWB frequency range (Ultra Wide Band, from 3.1 GHz to 10.6 GHz), while Bluetooth technology works on 2.4 GHz frequency, the same used by IEEE 802.11 wireless networks (Wi-Fi).
By the way, the first time we’ve heard about Wireless USB (WUSB) was during IDF Spring 2004, and the pictures shown in the next page were taken during IDF Fall 2008, showing how long it takes from the formation of a consortium to the launch of products on the market. Another interesting thing to notice is that at that time Intel forecasted that first WUSB products would reach the market by the end of 2005, also showing us how previsions are just a guess and can be completely wrong.
On next page we will shown you some real examples of WUSB usage.
For more details on WUSB, visit http://www.usb.org/developers/wusb/
Now we will show you some real examples of WUSB usage. As mentioned, if your PC doesn’t have native WUSB support, you will need to buy and install a WUSB dongle, device shown in Figure 1.
The same thing goes for regular USB peripherals; you need to “convert” them into WUSB using a WUSB hub, like the one in Figure 2 from IOGEAR. The good thing about a hub is that you can connect several USB peripherals to them at the same time, saving the cost of additional antennas for each individual product. In this example we have a printer connected to the WUSB hub, so the connection between the PC and the printer is made without the use of wires.
WUSB allows you to connect your PC to your video monitor without the use of wires, which is a terrific application. ASUS has announced an LCD monitor with native WUSB connectivity, as shown in Figure 3. You can connect any kind of monitor using a WUSB adapter, shown in Figure 4.
In Figure 5 we have another example, this time an external sound card with native WUSB support. By the way, we saw a demo of this sound card in conjunction with the wireless monitor from Figure 3 and audio and video were always in synch.