FCC rule change hits Bluetooth

Yet another problem faces Bluetooth, this one threatens the flexibility of the technology

A proposal sent to the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to change the treatment of spectrum radios could interfere with Bluetooth and reduce the capacity of Bluetooth piconets.

FCC rules and US law currently allows for 1Mhz channels for FH systems. The proposal, by the Home RF Working Group, to make 3MHz and 5MHz channels for frequency hopping radios legal would allow FH systems to achieve greater than 10Mbps data rates. This would create more interference to other co-located networks such as Bluetooth, due to the wider frequency use.

The root of the rule change is in the Home RF Working Group's ambition to scale its technology to higher data rates and therefore compete in the larger business, perhaps enterprise wireless LAN space. This of course puts it on a collision path with the 802.11HR technology, which currently works at 11Mbps with no direct competition from FH systems.

Bluetooth, which would like to co-exist with all the wireless LAN technologies, could be subjected to added interference that would reduce the capacity of Bluetooth piconets within range of one of these 3/5 channel FH systems.

"This is an interesting rule change," said Jim Kardach, Intel's spokesman for Bluetooth, "because the WLAN people, 802.11HR and HomeRF are battling over the home and enterprise markets. It is important to look at whether or not this is good or bad for Bluetooth. It does have an affect."

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