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Bluetooth to receive speed boost by 2008

The Bluetooth SIG, the industry group behind Bluetooth wireless standard, announced on Tuesday it is developing a new version of the technology to meet the high-speed demands for data transfer of high quality video and audio on portable devices like the iPod, multi-media projectors and television sets.

The group said it has selected the WiMedia Alliance multiband orthogonal frequency division multiplexing (MB-OFDM) version of ultra-wideband (UWB) for integration with current Bluetooth wireless technology, thus taking the next step in its plan to develop a version of the technology that can transmit data at speeds equivalent to USB or FireWire at distances up to 10 feet.

The first products with high-speed Bluetooth may show up late next year, with wider availability in 2008, Michael Foley, executive director of the Bluetooth Special Interest Group, told the Associated Press.

At the same time, Bluetooth technology will continue catering to the needs of very low power applications such as mice, keyboards and mono headsets, enabling devices to select the most appropriate physical radio for the application requirements, thereby offering the best of both worlds.

In its announcement, the Bluetooth SIG acknowledged that it is critical the UWB technology be compatible with Bluetooth radios and maintain the core attributes of Bluetooth wireless technology — low power, low cost, ad-hoc networking, built-in security features, and ability to integrate into mobile devices. Backwards compatibility with the over 500 million Bluetooth devices currently on the market is also an important consideration, the organization said.

One of the key components to the agreement between the Bluetooth SIG and the WiMedia Alliance is that both parties have agreed to develop a high speed, high data rate Bluetooth solution that utilizes the unlicensed radio spectrum above 6 GHz — answering concerns voiced by regulatory bodies in both Europe and Asia.

"Companies working with Bluetooth technology want to stay one step ahead of consumer demand and deliver a wireless technology that meets the global market needs for the personal area network — today and in the future," said John Barr, Ph. D., chairman of the board of directors, Bluetooth SIG, and director, standards realization, Motorola. "There is now an opportunity for the WiMedia Alliance to work with the Bluetooth SIG to define the Bluetooth technology/UWB implementation that will work for the Bluetooth SIG, our members and end users."

The first Bluetooth technology/UWB solution chip sets are expected to be available for prototyping in the second quarter of 2007.