In an unlikely pairing last week, the Bluetooth Special Interest Group, which steers the development of Bluetooth, has teamed up with developers of an emerging rival wireless technology, ultrawideband.
UWB, like Bluetooth, is a short-range wireless technology designed for personal area networking. But unlike Bluetooth, UWB allows for high-speed data transfer at low power levels. Bluetooth, however, is already established and connects with a wide range of devices.
Developers hope that by collaborating they can combine the best of both technologies so that users have the option to use Bluetooth or UWB on their devices.
The developers plan to work toward an architecture that would allow devices to use UWB for applications that require higher speeds, such as streaming high-quality video between portable devices. Bluetooth would maintain backward compatibility with devices already on the market and be used for other applications not requiring the higher data rate, such as headsets and hands-free car kits.
The Bluetooth SIG, based in Overland Park, Kan., said it will leverage its development experience to help jump-start UWBs entrance into the market, but the group acknowledged that UWB faces several engineering, regulatory and standards obstacles before it makes its way into mobile devices. For example, the United States is the only country so far to approve spectrum use for UWB, and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers is currently debating two competing UWB standards.
Bluetooth and UWB both face another potential hurdle: carriers that may find the short-range wireless technologies cut into profits they can make by charging users to send files over cellular networks.
In fact, some carriers have disabled Bluetooth functionality in their handsets, which has prompted at least one lawsuit. Verizon Wireless customers in California are suing the Bedminster, N.J., mobile phone operator for disabling Bluetooth file-sharing capabilities in the Motorola Inc. V710 handset.
"As they move into the mobile phone space, whats in it for the carrier and how much access are carriers going to allow?" asked Dave Linsalata, an analyst at market research company IDC, in Framingham, Mass.
The Bluetooth SIG said Bluetooth should bring profits to carriers by getting users accustomed to sending files, which could lead to more files being sent over cellular networks.