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We're backing Bluetooth, Intel reiterates

Coming to market more quickly than USB, apparently

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Yes, Bluetooth is late, but, hey, that's always the case when you're trying to establish a standard. So said Intel's Mobile Comms and Initiatives Marketing Manager, Simon Ellis, yesterday.

Ellis, who just so happens to be the Bluetooth SIG marketing chief, was in town to reiterate Chipzilla's commitment to the wireless connectivity technology.

"Bluetooth is a standard, not a product," he said, so it's development process shouldn't be seen as if it were one.

But back to Bluetooth. "Right now, we're at the same place that it took USB five years to get to," he said, citing that other Intel-backed standard, and one that, pace Apple, has largely failed to set the industry alight. The point of the comparison is that Bluetooth is only two years old.

Version 1.1 of the Bluetooth spec. was finalised earlier this month, said Ellis. The next stage is to define fully the four initial usage 'profiles' that define the various categories if Bluetooth-enabled device. They are file-transfer, data synchronisation, Internet access and a headset interface. Devices must fit one or more of these profiles in order to be classed as a Bluetooth device, he said. Other, optional profiles are in development, including imaging, printing and ad hoc 'personal area networks'.

Ellis said Intel will ultimately build the technology into its chipsets. Separately, he said Bluetooth will built into PCs within two to five years.

That's in addition to Chipzilla's promise to integrate 802.11b. The Mighty Chip Lizard's desktop products chief, Louis Burns, said at the Intel Developer Forum last month that the company would build wireless support into its chipsets in the late 2002/early 2003 timeframe.

Ellis also predicted a shift toward the faster 802.11a standard, with products in "two years", when quality of service issues are likely to have been resolved. 802.11a is faster than the current 802.11b standard, and operates at the 5GHz frequency, well away from the 2.4GHz band in which both 802.11b and Bluetooth co-exist.

The take-up of 802.11a is ultimately dependent on just when spectrum regulators allow use of the 5GHz band in countries where that frequency is regulated. Ellis is confident that where that's the case they will permit the use of the standard, just as some regulators have been persuaded to allow 2.4GHz to be used. That band is unregulated in most countries.

Equally, Ellis seemed confident that most supporters of HyperLAN, alternative to 802.11a, will come over to the standard preferred by non-Europeans. Intel is not backing HyperLAN, said Ellis.

Will 802.11 and Bluetooth co-exist? Ellis thinks so. The technology issues - operating on the same frequency, there's a risk of packet loss - will be resolved by design and through the robust nature of both systems (the likelihood of packet loss is small, and both simply re-send corrupt data). The shift to 802.11a will help too. ®

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