Wireless Standard or "Bluetooth": Sexier than it
Wireless standard's sexy, cool nickname "Bluetooth" apparently
comes from the 10th century Viking King Harald Bluetooth, who united
Nordic nations under one religion. Bluetooth's namesake unites wireless
products by transmitting signals between electronic devices such
as cellphones, personal digital assistants (PDAs) and other appliances,
which enables them to "talk" to each other.
In essence, Bluetooth
uses short-range radio links (up to 30 feet) at data transmission
speeds up to 720kbps within the 2.4gigahertz (GHz) band. The technology
has many advantages: it is always on, does not require line of sight
or conscious intervention by the user and it is adaptable to any
wireless standard. In addition it draws little power, making it
a useful technology for battery-powered devices like mobile phones,
laptops and PDAs. It allows devices to update each other automatically,
so a new phone number programmed into a mobile phone is automatically
added to a PDA or laptop. In a home networking environment, by using
Bluetooth a single broadband connection to the home can be enhanced
so that internet appliances within the household can communicate
with each other without the need for additional cabling.
Bluetooth's less sexy cousin -- 802.11 b (also known as Wi-Fi)
has also caught the industry's fancy. Both technologies allow consumers
to tap wirelessly into standard networks. The infrastructure for
802.11b, however, is much further along and transmission speeds
within the 2.4GHz band are estimated at 11Mbps. Another factor in
its favor is that 802.11b depends upon the same networking protocols
and standards as traditional networking, so adaptation should be
Frost & Sullivan (F&S) reports that by 2006, global sales
of 2.4GHz wireless LAN products will reach $1.3 billion. F&S
also reports that the telecom, computing and networking companies'
consortium, Bluetooth Special Interest Group, will generate $2.3
billion in global revenue by 2006.
Research firm Allied Business Intelligence estimates that manufacturers
will ship 1.4 billion Bluetooth products in 2005, which is considerably
more than its 20.2 million estimate for Wi-Fi shipments
Gartner's estimates for revenues for Bluetooth-enabled devices
peg revenues to reach only $5.3 million by 2005.
Frost & Sullivan reports that global shipments of Bluetooth-enabled
products will total 11 million in 2001, equaling $2.5 million in
The home networking market is forecast to grow strongly over the
next five years and short-range wireless solutions such as Bluetooth
will play an important role in its growth. According to The Yankee
Group, 12.4 million US households will adopt home networking capabilities
over the next year.
How will households utilize their more wired homes? According to
the Yankee Group the home network will provide a number of attractions.
Bluetooth-enabled appliances and services are beginning to emerge
after a number of years of hype. Prices, however, are still quite
steep. Sunderland Technologies' new Bluetooth adapter for Palm handhelds,
Bluetooth is an excellent development in wireless technology, as
is i-mode, WAP and the plethora of other established and emerging
wireless technologies. At times though, the wireless industry seems
to focus on the technologies themselves rather than on what is really
important for both business and consumer subscribers -- services
and solutions. Does this technology provide a solution to communication
and entertainment needs? Are the wireless services provided going
to make my business more efficient and my life more enjoyable? These
are the questions that need to be answered in order to determine
how successful Bluetooth will ultimately be.
Ben Macklin is eMarketer's