Cambridge Silicon Radio's new Bluetooth chip - BlueCore3 - will open up the wireless data exchange technology to all operating systems and make combi Bluetooth/Wi-Fi chipsets more efficient, it was announced this week.
The chip - which should be available in new products by Christmas- contains the full Bluetooth 1.2 standard which means software doesn't need to be loaded onto your computer or PDA to make it work, so it is operating system-independent.
It also contains Adaptive Frequency Hopping so Bluetooth won't interfere with Wi-Fi, making the inclusion of Bluetooth alongside Wi-Fi chips in a laptop more efficient. CSR also claims the chip uses 18 per cent less current to run, so devices will last longer without having to be recharged. BlueCore3 also contains a full stereo audio codec, so the quality of hands-free audio equipment should increase.
All this is excellent news for those wanting to use the long-hyped technology designed to replace cables between mobiles devices, PCs, peripherals and laptops but who have grown wary thanks to over-zealous predictions of its demise due to Wi-Fi. It also means Bluetooth device manufacturers can include the new chip easier and faster and so its benefits will be available to consumers sooner.
With chips growing smaller, cheaper and more efficient each year, endless argument over which wireless technology is liable to win out is beginning to look like so much hot air. Manufacturers are increasingly looking at combined chipsets that feature not only Bluetooth but all three flavours of Wi-Fi. That way, for very little extra cost, every base is covered.
Despite most of them running at the same frequency, the latest standards are designed to prevent clashes, making combination chips all the more viable.
The only argument that remains is whether the combination of cheap Bluetooth and Wi-Fi technology will expand to such a degree that it will damage the roll-out of 3G phone technology.
Wi-Fi only works within a small area of a few hundred metres; Bluetooth within a few metres. 3G can cover wide areas, fed through a new infrastructure of phone masts. However, the low-cost of Bluetooth and Wi-Fi in particular has made the concept of public Wi-Fi "hotspots" popular, where fast Net access is either charged at a certain rate or provided for free as a way of enticing customers to the vicinity.
While 3G infrastructure is being slowly built, the spread of Wi-Fi/Bluetooth could see a large chunk of its market cut away from underneath it. Only time will tell whether public hotspots prove financially viable and so what their growth rate will be. A high growth rate means trouble for the phone companies that invested billions of pounds in buying 3G transmission licences from the government - some of whom have already written the cost off.
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