Bluetooth Backers Agree to Boost Transfer Speed

From the Associated Press

The Bluetooth wireless standard used in cellphones and other small devices will take a leap in transmission speed, broadening its scope to enable high-definition video and files for digital music players such as the iPod.

The industry group behind Bluetooth said Tuesday that it would boost transfer speeds in the next few years by incorporating a radio technology, known as ultra-wideband.

Currently, Bluetooth works only for low-speed uses such as headsets and wireless keyboards. Ultra-wideband, which has yet to appear in consumer devices, enables wireless transmissions at speeds equivalent to USB or FireWire cables at distances up to 10 feet.

The first products with high-speed Bluetooth may show up late next year, with wider availability in 2008, said Michael Foley, executive director of the Bluetooth Special Interest Group.

Ultra-wideband is being developed by another industry group, the WiMedia Alliance, which includes Hewlett-Packard Co., Microsoft Corp. and Intel Corp.

Its linkup with Bluetooth will provide a way for devices with ultra-wideband hardware to identify each other and communicate. For instance, a phone with Bluetooth can recognize a headset and know that it receives and sends audio data.

"There's a convergence between three major sectors: personal computing, consumer electronics and cellphones," said Stephen Wood, president of the WiMedia Alliance.

These devices need the ability to send large files, Wood said. For instance, a camcorder with WiMedia technology could transmit high-definition video wirelessly to a TV in the same room.

The deal with the Bluetooth group is further validation of the WiMedia Alliance's approach to utilizing ultra-wideband technology.

It competes with the smaller UWB Forum, centered around Motorola Inc. spinoff Freescale Semiconductor Inc., which uses a different technology to exploit the same radio spectrum and has come slightly further in implementing it. The two groups tried for years to unite on a single standard, but this year formally broke off those efforts.

Freescale's technology is expected to appear in a few months in the first consumer products, attachments that wirelessly link a laptop to a USB hub.

However, the WiMedia Alliance has a larger base of industry support and shares many members with the Bluetooth group.

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