BlueCore01 doubles Bluetooth range, reduces power

New wireless processors from Cambridge Silicon Radio improve personal area networking

Cambridge Silicon Radio has launched a new line of stronger, less power-hungry Bluetooth chip designs that takes advantage of the wireless standard's growing maturity. The new chips arrive as Bluetooth is appearing in a variety of consumer products after a long wait.

Bluetooth is a short-range wireless standard designed to replace the cables that connect devices such as PDAs, PCs, headsets and mobile phones. It first appeared in products more than a year ago, but until recently the technology has been considered buggy and difficult to use.

CSR's new range of products is based on a single-chip device called BlueCore2, which is sampling now. According to the Cambridge-based company it doubles Bluetooth's range and memory address space while reducing power consumption and footprint by half, compared with the previous core, the widely-used BlueCore01.

The new device includes an integrated 2.4GHz radio, baseband circuitry, a microcontroller and memory, all on a single chip. Updates next year will include co-processors from ARM Holdings, which makes chip designs widely used in handheld devices and mobile phones, and digital signal processors.

CSR is bundling the core with software stacks aimed at particular end products, beginning with BlueCore1-PC, available now, which is aimed at Windows destkop and notebook PCs. Next year's versions will include BlueCore2-Mobile, BlueCore2-PDA and BlueCore2-Access. All are manufactured to 0.18-micron specifications.

"Bluetooth is now a mature worldwide standard and the emergence of second generation silicon and software solutions will drive penetration of the technology to a higher level," said CSR marketing director and co-founder Glenn Collinson in a statement. "In the last 12 months the market has clearly segmented into core areas and as a result CSR is designing its next-generation product range to specifically support these areas."

The new silicon comes as the IEEE standards body prepares to launch a much faster successor to Bluetooth at around the end of the year. The new standard will improve speed by 20 times, from 1Mbit/s to 20Mbit/s.

In the mean time, Bluetooth chips are getting cheaper, making it less difficult for manufacturers to include the technology in devices. Broadcom recently announced it was able to produce chips for under $5.

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