What will you do with 100Mbps Bluetooth?

Bluetooth industry body announces plans to boost the wireless standard using ultra-wideband technology, but what will this enable and will we see another format war ignite over competing technologies?

Jeremy Roche
Hi, I look after product development for CBS Interactive in Sydney - which lets me develop a range of websites including CNET Australia, TV.com and ZDNet Australia.
Jeremy Roche
2 min read

The Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) industry body today announced that the next generation of Bluetooth will support wireless association WiMedia and integrate a flavour of ultra-wideband (UWB) wireless called multiband orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing (MB-OFDM) that would enable Bluetooth devices to transmit data at around 100Mbps.

But what do all those acronyms mean for consumers?

So far we've seen Bluetooth technology built in to mobile phones, wireless headsets, headphones, keyboards, mice and laptops. The fast transfer rates of next-generation Bluetooth should allow for such things as streaming video from your mobile phone or iPod to your TV, automatic wireless synchronisation of your entire music collection to your MP3 player and the ad-hoc creation of networks to allow very large files to be sent quickly and securely. Similar to the situation now, Bluetooth with UWB will only be able to maintain connections up to 15 metres or so apart.

During a Web conference this afternoon, Mike Foley, executive director of the Bluetooth SIG, stated that high-speed Bluetooth will maintain is core features -- low power consumption and low cost -- while maintaining backwards compatibility with some 500 million devices already on the market.

Don't hold your breath, though, the specification isn't due for completion until 2007, so we probably won't see any devices featuring high-speed Bluetooth until 2008.

The Bluetooth SIG's partnership comes as no surprise, really, considering the WiMedia Alliance boasts members including industry big-wigs Intel, Nokia, Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard.

And if the HD-DVD vs Blu-ray format war isn't enough to keep you from adopting new technology, ultra-wideband also has two camps battling it out for the dominant technology. In one corner is the aforementioned MB-OFDM supporter WiMedia Alliance, which upcoming Wireless USB devices will rely on. In the other corner is what seems to be the underdog: direct-sequence UWB technology backed by the UWB Forum, which has the backing of around 220 members, including Motorola, Samsung and Seagate. While WiMedia will no doubt gain traction with the adoption of well-known Bluetooth technology, the UWB Forum might have a leg up being first to market. Demonstrated at CES 2006, Belkin is due to release its CableFreeUSB hub based on DS-UWB technology next month.

Although a task group for the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) was assigned to agree on a the 802.15.3a UWB standard, the two factions could not see eye-to-eye and the group was dissolved.

What uses will you have for ultra-fast Bluetooth? Do you think smaller companies have the power to beat rival behemoths like Microsoft and Intel when in comes to mass market adoption of new technologies and standards? Have your say below!