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The energy detection (ED) receiver is a feasible solution for time of arrival (TOA) estimation in ultra wideband (UWB) ranging. The task of TOA estimation under UWB multipath channel is to determine the first path (FP). In the ED receiver, threshold-crossing (TC) is used a lot. However, the threshold should be elaborately chosen, or else the false detection probability will be high. But it is difficult to acquire the optimal threshold. In the study, we propose a novel method to estimate the TOA based on the received signal characteristics, which are that the TOA of the noise sample that exceeds the threshold is random while the TOA of the FP is definite. The method detects the FP by calculating the frequencies of different samples crossing the thresholds over a sequence of received pulses. Simulation results verify its effectiveness in the IEEE 802.15.4a channels. Comparison results with other methods are also presented to prove the superiority of our method.