Next-gen Bluetooth chips play nicely with Wi-Fi

Cambridge Silicon Radio has launched a new generation of its BlueCore products aimed at devices including both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth

UK chip designer Cambridge Silicon Radio on Monday said it is sampling its third-generation Bluetooth wireless connectivity products, which will support the upcoming version 1.2 of the Bluetooth specification, and will give hardware makers the flexibility to offer more advanced Bluetooth services.

CSR's launch of its BlueCore3 silicon comes shortly after the company announced it had shipped its 10-millionth Bluetooth chip. Even as mobile devices are increasingly including Bluetooth connectivity, however, critics say interoperability and setup problems are keeping the technology from fulfilling its potential. The technology is also seen as being squeezed into a niche by wireless LANs and ZigBee, which is aimed at slower-speed, low-end electronics.

Bluetooth is intended to replace the cables that connect mobile devices, PCs and peripherals.

The Bluetooth 1.2 specification, which has been frozen and is due for final ratification this autumn, includes Adaptive Frequency Hopping, a technique for improving the coexistence of Bluetooth with other wireless standards in the same frequency range. CSR said this should make BlueCore3 chips well suited to devices that include both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi wireless LAN functionality, both of which use the 2.4GHz frequency.

The first two implementations of BlueCore3 are aimed at multimedia devices and low-cost, mass-market electronics. BlueCore3-Multimedia includes a programmable DSP (digital signal processor), for added flexibility, and is designed for high-end audio headsets. The system includes a 16-bit stereo audio CODEC, the technology that compresses and decompresses the audio stream. BlueCore3-ROM is aimed at mass-market, low-power devices such as mobile phones, and CSR said it consumes 18 percent less power than its predecessors.

CSR said it is cutting prices for its latest mass-market chips, which could increase Bluetooth's ubiquity. "BlueCore3-ROM raises performance whilst shrinking power, size and cost to move Bluetooth functionality to within reach of consumer 'value' devices for the first time," said Glenn Collinson, CSR's sales director and co-founder, in a statement.

Other Bluetooth chip manufacturers include large companies such as Texas Instruments and smaller firms such as BrightCom. CSR has a market-share lead over competitors, however, with its chips used in about 60 percent of certified Bluetooth products, according to the company.


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