The folks at UStec sent out a press release about an Aug. 2000-filed patent being approved: The patent covers sticking a wireless transceiver on an in-wall port that has some kind of backhaul. The problem with patents is that while this sounds somewhat trivial, unoriginal, and well-known at the time the patent was filed, it's all about the details, and this patent has a lot of interesting particulars. The particularly carved-out space might allow this patent to stand and yet define a very small number of cases where they could license or ban the use of their technology because of it. At least this isn't a business-model patent.
The main claim describes creating a distribution architecture comprising a main node that is essentially a router ("a plurality of external signals") with more physical layer complexity than common routers; that central node distributes to individually addressable nodes that are mounted in walls. The wall-mounted unit has a wireless transceiver defined in each of the claims as being based on Bluetooth, any RF transceiver, 802.11, infrared, and so on. The backhaul could be wired or wireless, use mesh between nodes, etc. It's a bit like Ethernet combined with the potential for combining analog and digital signals over the same
The idea is that a single wired or wireless central receiving point would handle all the different kinds of telecom, video, and data traffic regardless of what method it used to arrive at the facility, and then distribute it over whatever kind of backbone was needed to individual wall units that would be paired with wireless transceivers designed to decode each type of broadcast. So you could have Wi-Fi and an analog transceiver that would plug into an analog input of TV set, and a POTS (plain old telephone service) transceiver plugged into the RJ-11 port of the phone.
Where this patent might break down is that in 2000, the idea of combining and distributing many protocols, digital and analog, to devices each with their own kind of paired transceiver might have made sense, but we're in an all IP world today.
It's very unlikely that a new investment would be made for this kind of technology when blanketing a hotel or other property with Wi-Fi and then running IPTV, VoIP or VoWLAN, and Internet access would make much more sense. Some hotels have done part of this; I don't know of a hotel or retail business that's using IPTV over Wi-Fi yet, partly because of bandwidth, and (I'm sure) partly because of IPTV sets that will be appearing this year.
There are probably properties and homes that this approach would make perfect sense for, but I question the mass-market appeal that would allow affordable manufacture of the central system and components--especially when there's momentum behind powerline networking, multimedia over coax, and Wi-Fi, each of which are now tuned for multimedia (through quality of service) and voice.
The press release notes, "It avoids the undesired transmission of signals through walls and over distances. Radio Frequency (RF) signals can be optimized to levels that guarantee performance in each individual room." In homes, signal reach is an issue, but security is the answer. 802.11n will help with range, and newer tools for automating WPA Personal will help with security. In hotels and universities (two markets cited in the release), there's little "undesired" transmission. For offices, security is a better answer than RF restriction; those who care about RF line the walls with chicken wire equivalents.