Wireless USB

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The Certified Wireless USB logo USB Wireless certified Logo.svg
The Certified Wireless USB logo

Wireless USB is a short-range, high-bandwidth wireless radio communication protocol created by the Wireless USB Promoter Group which intends to further increase the availability of general USB-based technologies. In large, IPv6 was a key of this technology. It is maintained by the WiMedia Alliance and (as of 2009) the current revision is 1.0, which was approved in 2005. [1] Wireless USB is sometimes abbreviated as "WUSB", although the USB Implementers Forum discouraged this practice and instead prefers to call the technology Certified Wireless USB to distinguish it from the competing UWB standard.

Wireless kind of telecommunication that does not require the use of physical wires; the transfer of information or power between two or more points that are not connected by an electrical conductor

Wireless communication, or sometimes simply wireless, is the transfer of information or power between two or more points that are not connected by an electrical conductor. The most common wireless technologies use radio waves. With radio waves distances can be short, such as a few meters for Bluetooth or as far as millions of kilometers for deep-space radio communications. It encompasses various types of fixed, mobile, and portable applications, including two-way radios, cellular telephones, personal digital assistants (PDAs), and wireless networking. Other examples of applications of radio wireless technology include GPS units, garage door openers, wireless computer mice, keyboards and headsets, headphones, radio receivers, satellite television, broadcast television and cordless telephones. Somewhat less common methods of achieving wireless communications include the use of other electromagnetic wireless technologies, such as light, magnetic, or electric fields or the use of sound.

In telecommunication, a communication protocol is a system of rules that allow two or more entities of a communications system to transmit information via any kind of variation of a physical quantity. The protocol defines the rules, syntax, semantics and synchronization of communication and possible error recovery methods. Protocols may be implemented by hardware, software, or a combination of both.

WiMedia Alliance organization

The WiMedia Alliance was a non-profit industry trade group that promoted the adoption, regulation, standardization and multi-vendor interoperability of ultra-wideband (UWB) technologies. It existed from about 2002 through 2009.


Wireless USB was based on the (now defunct) WiMedia Alliance's Ultra-WideBand (UWB) common radio platform, which is capable of sending 480  Mbit/s at distances up to 3 metres (9.8 ft) and 110 Mbit/s at up to 10 metres (33 ft). It was designed to operate in the 3.1 to 10.6  GHz frequency range, although local regulatory policies may restrict the legal operating range in some countries.


The rationale for this specification is the overwhelming success of USB as a base for peripherals everywhere: cited reasons include extreme ease of use and low cost, which allow the existence of a ubiquitous bidirectional, fast port architecture. The definition of Ultra-WideBand (UWB) matches the capabilities and transfer rates of USB very closely (from 1.5 and 12 Mbit/s up to 480 Mbit/s for USB 2.0) and makes for a natural wireless extension of USB in the short range (3 meters, up to 10 at a reduced rate of 110 Mbit/s). Still, there is no physical bus to power the peripherals any more, and the absence of wires means that some properties that are usually taken for granted in USB systems need to be achieved by other means.

Computer port (hardware) hardware

In computer hardware, a port serves as an interface between the computer and other computers or peripheral devices. In computer terms, a port generally refers to the part of a computing device available for connection to peripherals such as input and output devices. Computer ports have many uses, to connect a monitor, webcam, speakers, or other peripheral devices. On the physical layer, a computer port is a specialized outlet on a piece of equipment to which a plug or cable connects. Electronically, the several conductors where the port and cable contacts connect, provide a method to transfer signals between devices.

Bus (computing) communication system that transfers data between components inside a computer

In computer architecture, a bus is a communication system that transfers data between components inside a computer, or between computers. This expression covers all related hardware components and software, including communication protocols.

The goal of the specification is to preserve the functional model of USB, based on intelligent hosts and behaviorally simple devices, while allowing it to operate in a wireless environment and keeping security on a par with the levels offered by traditional wired systems. It also seeks to be comparably power-efficient. To accomplish this, it uses an existing standard which defines a suitable physical layer and medium access control, through which the desired performance can be met, and it adds to it a convergence layer to merge both architectural efforts.

Wireless network any network at least partly not connected by physical cables of any kind

A wireless network is a computer network that uses wireless data connections between network nodes.

In the seven-layer OSI model of computer networking, the physical layer or layer 1 is the first and lowest layer. This layer may be implemented by a PHY chip.

Medium access control a service layer in IEEE 802 network standards

In IEEE 802 LAN/MAN standards, the medium access control (MAC) sublayer and the logical link control (LLC) sublayer together make up the data link layer. Within that data link layer, the LLC provides flow control and multiplexing for the logical link, while the MAC provides flow control and multiplexing for the transmission medium.

W-USB is defined as a bus, albeit logical and not physical, which can simultaneously connect a host with a number of peripherals. The host divides the available bandwidth through a time-division multiple access (TDMA) strategy. It maintains the ability of USB to safely manage devices on the fly. Hosts can communicate with devices up to 10 meters away.

Time-division multiple access channel access method for shared medium networks

Time-division multiple access (TDMA) is a channel access method for shared-medium networks. It allows several users to share the same frequency channel by dividing the signal into different time slots. The users transmit in rapid succession, one after the other, each using its own time slot. This allows multiple stations to share the same transmission medium while using only a part of its channel capacity. TDMA is used in the digital 2G cellular systems such as Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM), IS-136, Personal Digital Cellular (PDC) and iDEN, and in the Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications (DECT) standard for portable phones. It is also used extensively in satellite systems, combat-net radio systems, and passive optical network (PON) networks for upstream traffic from premises to the operator. For usage of Dynamic TDMA packet mode communication, see below.

On the fly is a phrase used to describe something that is being changed while the process that the change affects is ongoing. It is used in the automotive, computer, and culinary industries. In cars, on the fly can be used to describe the changing of the cars configuration while it is still driving. Processes that can occur while the car is still driving include switching between two wheel drive and four wheel drive on some cars and opening and closing the roof on some convertible cars. In computing, on the fly CD writers can read from one CD and write the data to another without saving it on a computer's memory. Switching programs or applications on the fly in multi-tasking operating systems means the ability to switch between native and/or emulated programs or applications that are still running and running in parallel while performing their tasks or processes, but without pausing, freezing, or delaying any, or other unwanted events. Switching computer parts on the fly means computer parts are replaced while the computer is still running. It can also be used in programming to describe changing a program while it is still running. In restaurants and other places involved in the preparation of food, the term is used to indicate that an order needs to be made right away.


Wireless USB is used in game controllers, printers, scanners, digital cameras, portable media players, hard disk drives and USB flash drives.[ citation needed ] It is also suitable for transferring parallel video streams, using USB over ultra-wideband protocols.

Game controller device used with games or entertainment systems

A game controller is a device used with games or entertainment systems to provide input to a video game, typically to control an object or character in the game. Before the seventh generation of video game consoles, plugging in a controller into one of a console's controller ports were the primary means of using a game controller, although since then they have been replaced by wireless controllers, which do not require controller ports on the console but are battery-powered. USB game controllers could also be connected to a computer with a USB port. Input devices that have been classified as game controllers include keyboards, mouses, gamepads, joysticks, etc. Special purpose devices, such as steering wheels for driving games and light guns for shooting games, are also game controllers.

Printer (computing) electronic device which produces a representation of an electronic document on physical media

In computing, a printer is a peripheral device which makes a persistent human-readable representation of graphics or text on paper. The first computer printer designed was a mechanically driven apparatus by Charles Babbage for his difference engine in the 19th century; however, his mechanical printer design was not built until 2000. The first electronic printer was the EP-101, invented by Japanese company Epson and released in 1968. The first commercial printers generally used mechanisms from electric typewriters and Teletype machines. The demand for higher speed led to the development of new systems specifically for computer use. In the 1980s were daisy wheel systems similar to typewriters, line printers that produced similar output but at much higher speed, and dot matrix systems that could mix text and graphics but produced relatively low-quality output. The plotter was used for those requiring high quality line art like blueprints.

Image scanner device that optically scans images, printed text, handwriting, or an object, and converts it to a digital image

An image scanner—often abbreviated to just scanner, although the term is ambiguous out of context —is a device that optically scans images, printed text, handwriting or an object and converts it to a digital image. Commonly used in offices are variations of the desktop flatbed scanner where the document is placed on a glass window for scanning. Hand-held scanners, where the device is moved by hand, have evolved from text scanning "wands" to 3D scanners used for industrial design, reverse engineering, test and measurement, orthotics, gaming and other applications. Mechanically driven scanners that move the document are typically used for large-format documents, where a flatbed design would be impractical.


The Wireless USB Promoter Group was formed in February 2004 to define the Wireless USB protocol [ citation needed ]. The group consists of Agere Systems (now merged with LSI Corporation), Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Microsoft, NEC Corporation, Philips, Staccato Communications, Alereon, Wisair and Samsung [ citation needed ].

In May 2005, the Wireless USB Promoter Group announced version 1.0 of the Wireless USB specification.[ citation needed ]

In June 2006, five companies showed the first multi-vendor interoperability demonstration of Wireless USB. A laptop with an Intel host adapter using an Alereon PHY was used to transfer high definition video from a Philips wireless semiconductor with a Staccato Communications PHY, all using Microsoft Windows XP drivers developed for Wireless USB.

In October 2006 the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved a Host Wire Adapter (HWA) and Device Wire Adapter (DWA) wireless USB products from WiQuest Communications for both outdoor and indoor use. The first retail product was shipped by IOGEAR using Alereon, Intel and NEC silicon in mid-2007. Around the same time, Belkin, Dell, Lenovo and D-Link began shipping products that incorporated WiQuest technology. These products included embedded cards in the notebook PCs or adapters for those PCs that do not currently include Wireless USB. In 2008, a new Wireless USB Docking Station from Kensington was made available through Dell. This product was unique as it was the first product on the market to support video and graphics over a USB connection, by using DisplayLink USB graphics technology. Kensington released a Wireless USB universal docking station in August, 2008 for wireless connectivity between a notebook PC and an external monitor, speakers, and existing wired USB peripherals. Imation announced Q408 availability of a new external Wireless HDD.

On March 16, 2009, the WiMedia Alliance announced transfer agreements for the WiMedia ultra-wideband (UWB) specifications. WiMedia transferred specifications, to the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG), Wireless USB Promoter Group and the USB Implementers Forum. After the technology transfer the WiMedia Alliance ceased operations. [2] [3] [4] In October 2009, the Bluetooth Special Interest Group has dropped development of UWB as part of the alternative MAC/PHY, Bluetooth 3.0/High Speed technology. A small, but significant, number of former WiMedia members had not and would not sign up to the necessary agreements for the intellectual property transfer. The Bluetooth group is now turning its attention from UWB to 60 GHz. [5] [6] [7]

On September 29, 2010, version 1.1 of the Wireless USB specification was announced. [8] It delivers several backwards-compatible improvements: UWB upper band support for frequencies 6 GHz and above, improved power management and consumption, and support for NFC and proximity based association.

Protocol architecture

Wireless USB protocol stack Wireless USB protocol stack.png
Wireless USB protocol stack

As mentioned, the USB model is preserved, and generally minor adjustments made to fit the specific needs of a wireless system. The changes are as follows, from top to bottom:

Changes to USB

The replacement of copper wires in the bus layer introduces ambiguity in the actual state of host-device connections and, even more importantly, potentially exposes communications fully to any other device within the propagation range, whereas they were reasonably secure over the wire. Hence an explicit secure relationship must be established. For this, the bus and device layers incorporate the necessary resources for use by the function layer. Every W-USB transmission is encrypted by the bus layer without impairing layer-to-layer horizontal communication.

The bus follows a TDMA-based polling approach supervised by the host. A transfer is formed by three parts: token, data and handshake. For efficiency reasons, several tokens containing timing information for the devices can be grouped into one, thus forming transaction groups. Flow control and packet sizes are adjusted for power efficiency, while respecting the high-level pipe model of communication between source and destination.

Even preserving the USB model typical error rates in wireless media require modifications in the mechanisms used to achieve said model: among others, data handshakes and buffering.

UWB defines both PHY and MAC layers, which need to be integrated in the W-USB model. In particular, MAC is joined with the logical link control (LLC) sublayer to form the link layer, responsible for encryption/decryption, PHY error management and synchronization, while PHY itself covers the correctness of headers, not payloads.

The MAC layer is particularly relevant to W-USB. It uses superframes divided in 256 time slots, the first of which are dedicated to the transfer of beaconing information. Slots can further be allocated to meet the necessities of clusters of devices, also identified by MMC's (see below). A host maintains one or more W-USB communication channels and is fully aware of the MAC layer, whereas a device only needs to use the defined W-USB interface to communicate through existing channels.

There are three degrees of MAC consciousness in devices. The highest of these corresponds to a self-beaconing device, which is able to perform beaconing on its own. The following degree represents directed-beaconing devices, which are unaware of MAC frames and have limited beaconing capabilities, depending on the host to detect and beacon for nearby devices. Lastly there are non-beaconing devices, which have a very limited ability to transmit and receive; on the other hand, devices which are undetectable by the host can not be affected by these devices, nor can affect them.

Thus, non-beaconing devices can only operate in very close vicinity to the host. Directed- and self-beaconing devices must be able to identify their hidden neighbors , which they do by emitting beacons. On their end, hosts manage global timers with the precision the physical medium requires (20 ppm). Channel time is sent within MMC's, and it is used for slot allocation, so it is important that hosts perform accurate beaconing. Devices may as well beacon reservation declarations.

The superframe includes device notification time slots for asynchronous transfers initiated by the devices (which do not use pipes, but instead tap the bus layer directly); the host dynamically assigns slots as needed. Besides these, W-USB transactions between the host and endpoints are carried out as in USB.

Data transport architecture

Transactions use TDMA microscheduling while adhering to USB semantics. A split-transaction protocol is used to allow multiple transactions to be carried out simultaneously. This is related to the transaction group concept, which consists of a microscheduled management command (MMC) and allocated time slots for the execution of its associated workload.

Wireless data transfers tend to incur in very significant overheads; to mitigate this W-USB replaces these with the burst mode data phase, which groups one or more data packets which reducing packet delimiters and separation gaps, in contrast with the USB rule of one data packet per transaction. The extent to which this practice is applied can be adjusted, resulting in a varying degree of equity between competing devices.

The specification defines four particular data transfer types; their identifying features are summarized here.

Power management can also affect data transport, since devices may control their power use at their discretion. The fact that the communications protocol is based on TDMA means that both host and devices know exactly when their presence is not required, and can use this to enter power saving modes. Devices may turn off their radios transparently to the host while maintaining their connections. They can also turn off over extended periods of time if they previously notify the host, as they will ignore all communications from said host. Eventually, the device will trigger the wakeup procedure and check for pending work.

In turn, the host will usually turn its radio off when it is not needed. If it decides to stop the channel, be in temporarily or to enter hibernation or shutdown states, it must notify the devices before it can do so.

Compatibility options for older hardware

The WUSB architecture allows up to 127 devices to connect directly to a host. Because there are no wires or ports, there is no longer a need for hubs.

However, to facilitate migration from wired to wireless, WUSB introduced a new Device Wire Adapter (DWA) class. Sometimes referred to as a "WUSB hub", a DWA allows existing USB 2.0 devices to be used wirelessly with a WUSB host.

WUSB host capability can be added to existing PCs through the use of a Host Wire Adapter (HWA). The HWA is a USB 2.0 device that attaches externally to a desktop or laptop's USB port or internally to a laptop's MiniCard interface.

WUSB also supports dual-role devices (DRDs), which in addition to being a WUSB device, can function as a host with limited capabilities. For example, a digital camera could act as a device when connected to a computer and as a host when transferring pictures directly to a printer.


W-USB interacts with wired USB via wire adapters Wireless USB wire adapters.png
W-USB interacts with wired USB via wire adapters

W-USB can form true USB systems, formed by a host, devices and interconnection support. It implements the USB hub-spoke model, in which up to 127 wireless devices can form point-to-point links (spokes) with the host (the hub). The host controller is unique in the system and is usually embedded in a working computer, though it could be connected to it through a simple USB connection, possibly wireless as well. Such a topology is similar to a star network (but all communications are strictly point-to-point, never between devices).

In order to allow common wired USB devices to be connected, the specification defines device wire adapters. Likewise, hosts connect to W-USB systems through use of a host wire adapter. Even though the physical layer is based on Ultra-WideBand, W-USB devices have a fully compliant USB interface. The physical layer may support a wide range of transfer rates, of which three are defined as mandatorily supported: 53.3, 106.7 and 200 Mbit/s, all other possible UWB rates being optional for devices (hosts must support them all).

W-USB devices are categorized in the same way as traditional USB. Because of the existence of wire adapters, traditional USB hubs are not needed. A device supports one or more communication pipes to the host, and allocates endpoint 0 for the USB control pipe. Device type information is available through this pipe.

Connections with the host are created by means of an establishment message sent at some point. Both host and device can then proceed to authenticate using their unique keys; if the process succeeds, the host assigns a unique USB address to the device, after which the device becomes visible to the USB protocol. Because the connectivity model allows for on-the-fly, unannounced disconnection, connections must always remain active. Aside from host- or device-forced disconnections, long inactivity periods may trigger the same termination mechanisms.

In addition, W-USB hosts have other responsibilities which go beyond those of a wired host; namely, their MAC sublayer is responsible for supervising the suitability of device MAC layers. If needed, this requires assisting them in their beaconing duties and processing the beaconing data that could be sent to them. Furthermore, the UWB radio and associated bandwidth may be shared with other entities, and the host must make sure that the defined policies are satisfied; according to shared use (which may be coordinated to avoid interference) it will be able to offer full or partial functionality.

Relation to ultra-wideband

UWB is a general term for radio communication using pulses of energy which spread emitted Radio Frequency energy over 500 MHz+ of spectrum or exceeding 20% fractional bandwidth within the frequency range of 3.1 GHz to 10.6 GHz as defined by the FCC ruling issued for UWB in February 2002. UWB is not specific to WiMedia or any other company or group and there are in fact a number of groups and companies developing UWB technology totally unrelated to WiMedia. WUSB is a protocol promulgated by the USB Implementers Forum that uses WiMedia's UWB radio platform. Other protocols that have announced their intention to use WiMedia's UWB radio platform include Bluetooth and the WiMedia Logical Link Control Protocol.[ citation needed ]

Wireless USB vs. 60 GHz

A few issues differentiate Wireless USB from other proposed/competing standards that utilize 60 GHz band like WiGig:

Line of sight
At 60 GHz, radio communication is blocked by any intervening object, which implies the need for open line of sight. Wireless USB is based on the Ultra-WideBand (UWB) platform, which operates in the 3.1 to 10.6 GHz frequency range, and thus can pass through intervening bodies.
The 60 GHz technology is appealing to the wireless video market because it is supposed to deliver multi-gigabit-speed wireless communications. [9] In order to support such heavy demands, the underlying MAC layer should be able to process this huge amount of data. For these requirements, the 60 GHz-based products need higher power consumption, and more electronics, which are less suitable for mobile units or devices.

Comparison of digital RF systems

Wireless USB vs. 802.11a/b/g and Bluetooth[ citation needed ]
SpecificationWireless USB specification Rev. 1.1 Bluetooth 4.0 Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11n) Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11ac) Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR
Frequency band3.1 GHz–10.6 GHz2.4 GHz2.4 GHz and/or 5 GHz5 GHz2.4 GHz
Bandwidth53–480 Mbit/s24 Mbit/sMax. 600 Mbit/s per band [10] Max. 6.93 Gbit/s per bandMax. 3 Mbit/s
Distance3–10 m [11] unknown distance100 munknown1–100 m depending on output
StandardizationSeptember 2010June 2010September 2009December 2013July 2007


Robustness is one of the main concerns upon which the specification is built, and as such resource management and connection/disconnection of devices becomes even more important than in wired USB. Packet loss and corruption are dealt with through timeouts as well as hardware buffering, guaranteed retries (as mentioned in the description of transfer models) and other flow control methods. If synchronism policies cannot be maintained, errors can be handled either by hardware or software (retries, maximum number of retries failure, failure recovery decisions and so on).

The W-USB host tries to mitigate the unreliability of wireless mediums (a 10% error rate is considered acceptable for 1 kB packets; in wired media this value is usually around 10−9) maintaining counters and statistics for each device and possible requesting information from them. It can also access and modify the transmit power control functions of each device, as well as change transmission parameters such as data payload size and bandwidth adjustments.

The focus is always on providing quality of service comparable to that of traditional USB. Wires offer a very high level of security (given a typical trusted working environment), so standard USB does not deal with it, even though it does not hinder its applicability or implementability; W-USB manages security explicitly, but instead of harnessing the base of UWB it designs a model which is valid for USB in general. Because of this, it must be added to the common USB device control plane.

For communication to exist, secure relationships must be established. These must have a defined purpose and restrict membership to the group, which serves as the base of trust to carry out the desired work. Within a wired systems, data transfers imply a controlled physical connection; this translates into the wireless domain through the concept of ownership: the user grants trust to the devices, which in turn prove this trust to others (interacting in so-called ceremonies) in order to form the desired associations. The USB address identifier is a token of the owner's trust. Applications may require other bases of trust not directly supported by this USB-specific model, in which case they can be implemented on top of the core USB stack.

Even more, trust needs to be maintained, otherwise it will expire. After receiving the group key of a cluster, a device must keep the connection alive by at least confirming its presence within each trust timeout boundary, which is set to four seconds. If it does not succeed at keeping up with this requirement, reauthentication is demanded.

Following the natural asymmetry of USB, the host initiates all processes (except signaling), security being no exception. Security requests are made to devices to find their security capabilities, after which the appropriate devices can be chosen. The standard, symmetric encryption method is AES-128 with CCM, though Public key encryption may be used for initial authentication (namely, only the sending of the initial CCM key), provided that the achieved security level is comparable (in practice by using 3072-bit RSA and SHA-256 for hashing).

Note that there is a difference between master keys and session keys . Master keys are long-lived and usually work as a shared secret or a means to distribute session keys, which in turn do not outlive the connection for which they were created and usually serve as the functional encryption/decryption mechanism. A specific header field indicates which of the possible keys is to be used. It is also important to note that replay prevention mechanisms require the keeping of counters which are updated on valid receptions. The range of these counters further limits the life of session keys.


Other forms of USB over wireless exist, such as those based on the competing direct sequence ultra-wideband technology by Cable-Free USB. [12] The same is also true for other radio frequency based wire replacement systems which can carry USB. The result is that the name Certified Wireless USB was adopted to allow consumers to identify which products would be adherent to the standard and would support the correct protocol and data rates.

There is also USB over IP, which may use IP-based networking to transfer USB traffic wirelessly. For example, with proper drivers the host side may use 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi (or wired Ethernet) to communicate with the device side. [13]

Media Agnostic USB

As of 2013, Media Agnostic USB (MA USB) is a specification being developed by the USB Implementers Forum. It is intended to enable communication using the Universal Serial Bus (USB) protocol to be performed over a wide range of physical communication media, including WiFi and WiGig wireless networks. [14] The protocol is being developed from the base of the Wi-Fi Alliance's previous WiGig Serial Extension specification. [15] [16]

Media Agnostic USB is distinct from, and should not be confused with, previous wireless USB protocols such as Certified Wireless USB.

See also

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WiGig, alternatively known as 60GHz Wi-Fi, refers to a set of 60 GHz wireless network protocols. It include the current IEEE 802.11ad standard and also the upcoming IEEE 802.11ay standard.


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