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In this paper, a new joint timing and channel estimation scheme is proposed for orthogonal frequency division multiplexing and single carrier block transmission ultra- wideband (UWB) systems. In particular, a new preamble pattern is used for both coarse timing and channel estimation. Despite of the presence of coarse timing error, the estimated channel impulse response (CIR) is simply the cyclic shifted version of the real CIR, thanks to the unique structure of the preamble. Then a new method is proposed to search for the first channel tap in the CIR vector, which can be employed to fine tune the timing position and adjust the channel estimation for later data block detection. The proposed scheme has low complexity, saves preamble overhead by performing joint synchronization and channel estimation, and outperforms existing timing acquisition methods in the literature by a large margin in dense multipath UWB channels. Moreover, this paper presents an analysis of the effect of residual timing error on the performance of single carrier systems with frequency domain equalization.