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Major move toward wireless standard

A number of telecommunications and PC technology leaders join to develop and deliver a new wireless communications technology.

A group of telecommunications and PC technology leaders today said they have joined to develop and deliver a new wireless communications technology.

Ericsson, IBM, Intel, Nokia, and Toshiba unveiled a specification for a new technology, code-named Bluetooth, being developed through the contributions of the members of the so-called Bluetooth Special Interest Group. The group was formed earlier this year by the five companies.

The companies said the new technology, which could debut next year, will allow users to connect a wide range of devices easily and quickly, without the need for cables, expanding communications capabilities for mobile computers, mobile phones, and other mobile devices, both in and out of the office.

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Bluetooth uses a short-range radio link allowing international services, the companies said in a statement. The new initiative is modeled after other successful industry standards such as PCI and AGP and aims to deliver products that interoperate.

Bluetooth backers envision access to the Internet either by a wireless connection routed through a mobile phone, through a wired connection such as the public switched telephone network, through a high-speed ISDN line, or through local area data networking equipment.

Not everyone, however, sees the standard as a technological panacea. While it will remove many barriers to achieving true wireless data communications, one industry analyst said there is still a long way to go.

"I think it helps solve a few of the problems, but not all," said Alan Reiter, president of Wireless Internet & Mobile Computing, a consulting and publications firm. "This is not the millennium of wireless data. It has the potential of eliminating one more stumbling block for developing wireless data communications."

Reiter did acknowledge that the proposed standard's big-name backers might persuade other companies to jump on the bandwagon.

The initial group of proponents have invited other companies to support the new technology on a royalty-free basis to ensure that Bluetooth can be implemented in many different devices.

Companies that have joined the Bluetooth program and committed to include the technology in their products include Motorola , Qualcomm, 3Com, VLSI, and Lucent.

Although the companies did not release any pricing or shipping date, Reiter said he expects to see devices supporting the new technology next year.