Duo Works on Bluetooth Dilemma

 
 
By Carmen Nobel  |  Posted 2000-12-11
 
 
 

A pair of wireless silicon manufacturers are working to solve one of the headaches facing the Bluetooth technology.

At issue is the radio frequency on which Bluetooth operates—its the same one used by wireless LANs based on the 802.11 specification. When an 802.11 connection collides with a Bluetooth connection, transmission errors often occur.

Intersil Corp., which manufactures silicon for the 802.11b protocol, and Silicon Wave Inc., which makes single-chip Bluetooth radio transceivers, are working together on a dual-mode platform that solves the interference problem and supports both the 802.11 and Bluetooth protocols.

Silicon Wave, based in San Diego, is by no means the biggest company making Bluetooth radios—having to compete with Ericsson Inc., Intel Corp. and Motorola Inc.—but its product is promising because it uses just a single chip.

This could help solve a conundrum for hardware manufacturers, as many of them—especially notebook manufacturers—want to support both protocols in a single device.

The two specifications have functions that are similar but different enough to warrant supporting both. Bluetooth requires little power and is meant for devices to recognize one another and transmit small amounts of data over short distances (up to 10 meters), while 802.11 connections are meant for more data-intensive connections at 11MB per second and distances of up to several hundred feet between notebooks or PCs.

Initially, products that support Intersils dual-mode platform, due early next year, will be offered on 32-bit CardBus and MiniPCI, according to company officials in Irvine, Calif.

Eventually, the two companies want to come up with a radio that uses dynamic switching so that both radios can use the same antenna.

Officials at the companies said the development team that came up with the dual-mode platform intends to deliver a reference design to manufacturers that already use Intersil products. These include 3Com Corp., Cisco Systems Inc. and Alcatel. ´

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