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A Year Ago: Bluetooth bites back at BT home wireless system

First published: Tue, 07 Sep 1999 16:40:54 GMT
Written by Dave Wilby, Contributor

Some in the Bluetooth community say BT's home network is outdated. BT's partner responds: We don't know what you're talking about.

TDK's Bluetooth division criticised BT's move into wireless home networking Tuesday for using dated and inflexible technology it says will be inordinately expensive for consumers when it arrives next year.

The criticism comes a day after BT and Home Wireless Networking (HWN) announced they would deliver wireless networking technology to over five million UK homes over the next five years.

TDK said BT's plan, which uses a combination of DECT and 802.11 wireless radio, amounted to "bits and pieces" put together a year or two ago with the technology of that day. "I'm aware of the old VHS/Betamax argument, but the fact is 802.11 is old and clunky and I don't think it will get there. It's expensive, inflexible equipment," said Alistair Bell, TDK Bluetooth teamleader.

Despite BT's intention to support Bluetooth in the future with its forthcoming DECT/802.11 compliant system, Bell reckons a Bluetooth-only system is a better choice for the home. "It is our feeling that a Bluetooth system would be cheaper and more flexible than either DECT or 802.11, offering everything that BT intends to offer and more," he said.

"Bluetooth can offer cheaper, dedicated 721kbit/s connections for each wireless device, rather than making devices share 2Mbit/s connections. Even if 802.11 offered 11Mbit/s, which isn't really achievable, we are already investigating Bluetooth products that may be able to bond multiple channels together, offering even more bandwidth," he said.

Another of Bell's concerns is the reported price of BTs equipment, which could run to hundreds of pounds. Bluetooth is likely to be a standard feature on consumer gadgets including mobile phones. "Everyone will have a GSM handset with Bluetooth capabilities in two-to-three years. There will also be plenty of PDA-optimised features in Bluetooth that I don't believe 802.11 will be able to manage, not least because of the power requirements involved," he said.

But BT partner HWN, which will make BT's hardware, is bewildered by the reaction from the Bluetooth camp, claiming the technologies are compatible and not rivals. Simon Finch, director of European product development at HWN said: "Bluetooth and 802.11 are just not comparable technologies. Our system is a complete network for voice and Internet access, whereas Bluetooth silicon will allow for point-to-point single wireless connections.

"It's just not a sensible argument. Our devices are designed for an entirely separate market. How long will you have to wait before Bluetooth offers 11Mbits/s, multiple detection networking over 50 metres? And when basic Bluetooth silicon is available in the third quarter of 2000, we have said we will integrate this into our system as well."

A spokesman for Ericsson thought TDK's objections were a little harsh, pointing out that Bluetooth is still some way off. "Bluetooth will have some advantages but of course there are no router products are ready yet. At the moment you can't do this any other way than to use DECT and 802.11."

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