Mobile phones drive wider Bluetooth adoption

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Mobile phones drive wider Bluetooth adoption

Bluetooth short-range wireless technology is gaining a foothold that could help it fulfill its original promise of linking up a variety of devices in a "personal area network".

Standardised in 1998 and envisioned as a communications cloud that would link a variety of computing and communications devices, Bluetooth became available earlier this year in a large number of products, most of which revolve around mobile phones.

However, vendors and analysts said those phone-related products have helped to foster wider Bluetooth adoption by pushing up volumes and driving down component prices.

"Mobile phones are going to be the dominating product when it comes to product volumes," said Johan Akesson, marketing director for Ericsson Technology Licensing. The company is a division of Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson, which pioneered Bluetooth.

Akesson believed shipments of Bluetooth chipsets would grow about 300% next year.

Bluetooth is based on a standard that calls for data transmission at a maximum speed of 768Kbps (bits per second) over a distance of about 10 metres. A Bluetooth-equipped phone can be used with a cordless headset or as a data modem for a notebook or handheld PC.

Add-on kits for cars eliminate the need for a special cradle to hold a mobile phone while the driver uses it in hands-free mode. The technology is now available in high-end phones but will filter down to midrange phones next year, Akesson said.

Other possible uses of Bluetooth include synchronising data among PCs, PDAs and phones, sending images or video from a digital camera to a phone, and wireless communication between a PC and a printer.

Bluetooth will be integrated into many devices in 2003, but it will not become clear how people actually want to use the technology until 2004, industry analyst Gerry Purdy of MobileTrax said last week.

"We still probably don't know exactly where the most often used application is going to be, but I suspect it's not what developers thought a few years ago," Purdy said.

Vendors are lining up some phone-related product announcements for this week's Bluetooth Developers Conference.

Audi will demonstrate a Bluetooth-enabled GSM car phone and a cordless Bluetooth handset. The car company will offer Bluetooth-equipped models in Europe and Asia this month. The cars will be equipped with BlueCore, an integrated Bluetooth baseband, radio and controller from Cambridge Silicon Radio in the UK.

Motorola will show the second generation of its Motorola Wireless Headset, which offers longer talk and standby time and can communicate with as many as eight different devices at once.

The Bluetooth Developers Conference runs until Thursday. More information is available at www.bluetooth.com.

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