Axis first in wireless Net race

Antony Savvas reports on the latest developments from the Networld+Interop show in Las Vegas.

Antony Savvas reports on the latest developments from the Networld+Interop show in Las Vegas.

The first commercial mobile Internet product built using Bluetooth short wave radio technology was launched at the Networld+Interop show in Las Vegas last week.

Sweden-based Linux developer Axis Communications unveiled Bluetooth Access Point wireless local area network to deliver voice and data services via the Internet.

The idea is to give this access to phones, personal digital assistants and laptops in mobile Internet hot-spot areas such as airports, shopping centres and conference suites. The Access Point box, equipped with an embedded Linux OS, uses the unlicensed 2.4GHz spectrum, so users are not required to pay any access charges.

Axis Communications has lined up an airline at a major airport to use Access Point to offer mobile Internet services to its customers. These customers will be offered a Bluetooth dongle supplied by the airline which will enable them to access the Internet at up to 100m from the Access Point box.

Linus Lundberg, Axis director of corporate business development, said that unlike third generation mobiles which will not be commercially available until about 2003, "[Bluetooth] gives individual businesses the chance to set up mobile Internet in localised hot-spots now."

In line with the Bluetooth specification, up to seven users will be able to access the Internet at the same time. The standard range for Bluetooth products is 10m, but Access Point is able to offer longer ranges thanks to a booster device.

Bluetooth is seen as not only a cable replacement solution for data access, but also one for infra-red, which relies on line-of-sight connections over often shorter distances.

The only other Bluetooth commercial product about to be unleashed is Ericsson's Bluetooth-enabled headset, which offers cable-free connections to a personal mobile phone or a multiple number of mobile phones at the same time which are part of a workgroup.

This headset is also expected to be demonstrated this summer.

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