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Bluetooth is likely to fulfil the stellar growth predictions of the technology's backers despite delays in the roll out of practical applications, according to a study by Frost & Sullivan.

The research firm rebuffs doomsayers by forecasting global shipments of Bluetooth-enabled products will reach 11 million units in 2001, equalling $2.5 billion in revenues.

Bluetooth is a specification that describes how computers and devices like mobile phones can easily interconnect with each other using a short-range wireless connection. The technology requires that low-cost transceiver chip be included in each device

Michael Wall, research analyst at Frost & Sullivan, said that Bluetooth technology will be even more successful if the Bluetooth 1.1 specification, which will iron out interoperability problems, gets an early ratification. This is expected to happen in between three to six months.

Early Bluetooth-equipped products, of which there are few and they're expensive, are being brought onto the market despite their lack of compliance with the Bluetooth 1.1 standard.

Wall admits that so far a great deal of "hype" has surrounded Bluetooth, but said this did not detract from its potential benefits as a technology that was maturing towards becoming a viable way to set up Wireless Lans.

"Bluetooth has evolved from something that will allow devices to talk to each other to a networking technology but adding extra functionality that people want has caused delays," said Wall.

Frost & Sullivan believes the increasing involvement of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE), and the establishment of the 802.15 standard for personal area networking (PAN), are principal drivers behind the future ubiquity of the technology. It thinks the involvement of the IEEE will help resolve the problems of interoperability, security and interference with other radio technologies that Bluetooth currently faces.

There are more than 2000 developing companies now affiliated with the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG).

So far Bluetooth has offered a number of smaller, highly innovative fabless semiconductor developers an opportunity to build early market share, whilst many of the larger players have been slow to market their products.

This is expected by Frost & Sullivan to change as the market matures and Ericsson, Motorola and Nokia bring mobile phones containing Bluetooth to market this year. Of these Ericsson is expected to be the strongest performer and notch up Bluetooth-generated revenues for 2001 pegged at over US$800 million. ®

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