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The announcement by the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) that it will develop a Bluetooth version that uses faster 802.11a/b/g wireless-network connections will be a stepping stone to Bluetooth's adoption of still-faster ultrawideband (UWB) technology, ABI Research contends.
"The UWB market worries that this announcement may slow down or even suspend its relationship with Bluetooth, but ABI Research does not believe this will be the case," said ABI senior analyst Douglas McEuen.
Bluetooth SIG executive director Michael Foley described the announcement this way: "We're taking classic Bluetooth connections — using Bluetooth protocols, profiles, security and other architectural elements — and allowing it to jump on top of the already present 802.11 radio, when necessary, to send bulky entertainment data faster. When the speed of 802.11 is overkill, the connection returns to normal operation on a Bluetooth radio for optimal power management and performance."
Bluetooth-over-802.11 is a natural next step because we're seeing Wi-Fi in cellular handsets now," McEuen noted.
The SIG is pursuing the Wi-Fi option, McEuen contended, because USB technology backed by the WiMedia Alliance has performed far more slowly than expected in user trials with actual throughputs of only 20Mbps to 40Mbps. UWB had promised theoretical speeds of 480Mpbs at 3 meters. IEEE 802.11a, in contrast, delivers a theoretical 54Mbps, with real-world throughput of about half that, he said.
The Bluetooth-over-802.11 spec is still in draft form and is expected to be approved sometime later this year. Products incorporating the spec could be available late this year or early next, MeEuen said.
The SIG's announcement "will not have an impact on the timing of the UWB market," McEuen contended, "as UWB remains set to be delivered as a viable radio to wireless handsets during the 2009-2010 time frame." An 802.11 version of Bluetooth "can only attract more consumers, thereby setting the stage for UWB's implementation to attain its full potential in the coming years," he added.
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