Bluetooth specialist Cambridge Silicon Radio (CSR) claims that the short-range wireless technology is poised to play a leading role in the development of ‘one phone’ handsets that unite mobile and fixed-line telephone services.
The new phones would allow people to have a single number for a handset they could use on either mobile or traditional home and office networks.
CSR, which designs the microchips used in 60 per cent of Bluetooth-enabled products, said a new high-speed version of the technology would enable phones to connect to fixed-line networks from access points indoors while using 3G mobile systems outside.
The Cambridge company this week launched the fourth generation of its silicon to support enhanced data rate (EDR) Bluetooth, a new version of the technology which offers data speeds of 2.1megabits per second against the current 721kbits.
EDR will make it possible to use several Bluetooth devices together – for example a mouse, keyboard and headset on a single computer – and reduce to less than half a second the time it takes to exchange typical low-resolution images between mobile phones.
It will also allow existing functions such as linking to a hands-free kit to be carried out with up to one third less drain on battery power, a major issue for mobile device manufacturers.
Glenn Collinson, co-founder of CSR and the company’s sales director, said the ramp up in data speeds meant Bluetooth had closed the gap on other wireless local area network technologies such 802.11 wi-fi.
And he made it clear that CSR wants Bluetooth to have a major slice of the action in the potentially huge new market for combined fixed-line/mobile phones.
Some of the world’s biggest telecoms operators – including BT and Japan’s NTTDoCoMo – have formed an alliance to search for technologies which could merge mobile and fixed-line operations. The telecoms industry launched a similar initiative in the late 1990s, but failed because the technology was not available.
‘Bluetooth has had cordless telephone capability built into it from day one,’ said Collinson, confirming that CSR had been in discussions with the industry over the one-phone initiative.
He also claimed that concerns over the range offered by Bluetooth phones was misplaced. According to CSR the technology is able to operate at up to 100m indoors, comparable to the DECT radio system used by standard cordless handsets.
But the lower power consumption and far higher data rates gives Bluetooth big advantages over existing indoor systems, according to Collinson.