Why & How?

Why Bluetooth V3.0?

After a long wait the Bluetooth V3.0 standard was finally given the nod by the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) on 21st April in Tokyo. One of the key aims of the new version of the standard is to increase uptake in consumer devices. Bluetooth may be ubiquitous in mobile phones and pretty common in laptops and printers, but it's not in your TV, digital TV box, media streamer and has only appeared in a handful of mini Hi-Fi systems.

In this sense its lags well behind Wi-Fi. Of course, it was broadband and the ability to surf the net wirelessly that was the battering ram that led to the acceptance of Wi-Fi in the home, but arguably mobile phones should have played the same role for Bluetooth. However, while phones have helped it gain significant traction among techies, the problem is that most consumers so closely associate it with mobiles that they're not aware of many of its other functions such as A2DP audio streaming.

The Bluetooth SIG is looking to change this with Bluetooth V3.0. It wants to use V3.0 to help it establish Bluetooth as a useful technology in the minds of consumers for not just the mobile phone, but all kinds of media tasks inside, as well as outside the home.

Of course, the big problem with using Bluetooth around the home is its lack of bandwidth. Sure you can use it to transfer the odd photo from your mobile phone to your PC or laptop, but try transferring say thirty 3.0 megapixel files and you'll have grown a beard by the time it's finished. Obviously, if Bluetooth is going to be used to transfer and stream large amounts of data it desperately needs a serious increase in speed.

How does Bluetooth 3.0 work?

Luckily Bluetooth 3.0 will offer a huge increase in bandwidth over what's gone before. Where as data transfers using Bluetooth v2.1 + EDR topped out at a theoretical maximum of 3Mbps, devices that support the new V3.0 + HS standard will have a top speed of 24mbps. To achieve these speeds V3.0 borrows Wi-Fi's 802.11 radio technology. Essentially V3.0 Bluetooth chips will have the ability to wake up the IEEE 802.11 radio on the device when it needs to transfer large files.

This has three main advantages. Firstly 802.11 radios are already in use so have had all the bugs ironed out. Secondly, because Wi-Fi technology is so prevalent in the market 802.11 is already well understood by those who are likely to develop Bluetooth HS applications. This makes development cheaper because these companies already have 802.11 expertise in-house. Thirdly, it will allow the development of single chip Bluetooth and Wi-Fi silicon as the 802.11 radio can be shared for both standards.

For example, Broadcom has already announced its InConcert BCM4325 chip, which integrates Bluetooth, Wi-Fi B/G and FM radio functionality onto a single piece of silicon. Other players such as Atheros Communications and CSR PLC have announced that they have similar products that have also already received certification.

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