UK's Bluetooth pioneer 'switches on the afterburners'

Cambridge Silicon Radio is buoyant on growing demand for Bluetooth phones and accessories as it lays plans for future products - including the concept of the 'fongle'

Cambridge Silicon Radio (CSR) has said that its first quarter revenues were up 30 percent to $36.8m (£20.5m) in comparison to its previous financial quarter, as the market for Bluetooth-enabled headsets, phones, and interface devices expands.

In a statement, the company said that it had won 72 chip design contracts, as well as seven out of the nine Bluetooth mobile phone design contracts awarded this quarter. These included a key design win from mobile phone giant Nokia, which generally prefers using homegrown technology.

According to Richard Ord, vice president of CSR's Bluetooth business unit, the company has seen strong growth over the last two years in the expanding market for chips used in Bluetooth headsets and PC-related peripherals. However, the increasing popularity of Bluetooth in mobile phones has dramatically boosted demand.

"The company has had explosive growth in the last couple of years, but somebody has just switched on the afterburners. The challenge right now is meeting demand as it changes week by week," he said.

Ord said that CSR is focusing on making its core Bluetooth chips easy for phone manufacturers and PC vendors to integrate, and will provide different versions of the chipset, aimed at different price points and power consumption levels.

In the second half of the year the company plans to launch variants of its chips for keyboards and mice, as well as chips aimed at the low end mobile market. It will also be offering chips for 'fongles' -- devices that can be plugged into older phones to provide them with Bluetooth support so that they can be used with headsets.

Until now, Bluetooth phones have been aimed at business users, but Ord expects Bluetooth to become popular with more users over time as legislation comes in banning the use of mobile handsets in cars. "We also see applications in headsets for MP3 players, and this month we launched our first product with stereo support," he said.

Ord also claims that the market will expand as the initial competition between the US-driven Wi-Fi standard and the European Bluetooth standard is sorted out in the marketplace. This should make it easier for the US to embrace the Bluetooth standard.

"As with GSM, it was 'Not invented here' for the US at first, but there is now less of a barrier. If you want low-powered short-range data exchange, that's Bluetooth. Wireless LAN [does] your file exchange, but you need good batteries, because the power consumption issues are different," said Ord.

The company expects to increase its headcount by up to 50 people this year, and Ord says that much of that new hiring will take place in the US as the Bluetooth market there expands.

CSR dominates the market for Bluetooth chips, and its designs are incorporated in mobile phones from Nokia, Panasonic and Sharp as well as headsets from Jabra, Motorola and Plantronics. CSR claims that 33 percent of Bluetooth-enabled mobile phones use its chips. The company went public in the UK in February on the London Stock Exchange.