But is coexistence as important as it is made out to be? Joel Linsky of Silicon Wave believes it is. "We see coexistence issues slowing the adoption of Bluetooth over 802.11b," he said.Toshiba is very concerned about the coexistence of wireless technology. "There are so many wireless products competing in the market place," said Robert Graham, a principal wireless engineer at Toshiba. "Were putting wireless in washing machines, notebooks, NASA astronauts are trying wireless to communicate with ground stations. In fact, we have introduced Wi-Fi into a mix of Bluetooth products to see what interference issues pop up.""The prime difference between 802.11 and Bluetooth is that 802.11 replaces one cable while Bluetooth replaces any cable and can connect everything from a digital camera to laptop to mouse," Hunn said. "Yes, it doesnt have high speed. But when you are traveling you dont need to carry lots of cables with you because Bluetooth replaces all of them."Microwave ovens run at the 2.4-GHz frequency, as do plasma lighting systems. All of this generates a surprising amount of interference in the 2.4-GHz frequency band. This has contributed to some of the fears satellite radios have had over the adoption of Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, executives acknowledged. "IT departments are already banning Bluetooth to prevent it from interfering with Wireless LAN," Graham said. "Bluetooth is definitely a threat to them. But hey, even microwave ovens generate more interference."Arguments like these seek to promote Bluetooth technology over Wi-Fi. While it is true that Wi-Fi has not been able to address either cost or power consumption as well as Bluetooth, Graham from Toshiba thinks both technologies first have to resolve the interference problem in the 2.4-GHz band.
While most companies try to come up with products that are compatible with both technologies, differences inevitably arise. 802.11b is better at transmitting data up to 100 feet instead of just a few feet with Bluetooth. At 11-Mbits/s, the technology whips past Bluetooths 100-300 Kbit/s data rates. But Wi-Fi chips are power hungry and less practical when used for handheld devices like PDAs and cell phones, according to Nick Hunn, managing director of TDK.