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Bluetooth partners boost "Frequency Hopping"

Last week's Bluetooth Americas 2003 conference brought together some of the top players in the short-range wireless market to discuss the future of their industry. Execs from Microsoft, Ericsson, IBM, Intel, Motorola, Nokia and Toshiba -- all founders of the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) -- focused much of their attention on Adaptive Frequency Hopping (AFH), a new feature of Core Specification Version 1.2 that was adopted by the Bluetooth SIG last month.

AFH was designed to allow devices that operate in the crowded 2.4GHz unlicensed radio spectrum to ''play well'' together, explained Microsoft Wireless Architect Michael Foley. It was created specifically to reduce interference between wireless technologies sharing that spectrum. Cordless telephones, microwave ovens and certain Wireless Local Area Networking (WLAN) technologies, including IEEE 802.11b and IEEE 802.11g, generally share the same wireless frequencies as Bluetooth wireless technology. AFH works within the spectrum to take advantage of the available frequencies without limiting the Bluetooth transmission to a set of frequencies occupied by other technologies.

This ''adaptive hopping'' allows for more efficient transmission within the swarming spectrum, Foley said, providing the user with better performance, even when using other technologies along with Bluetooth. By developing the AFH technology, he noted, the SIG has created a ''friendlier environment where a wide variety of devices can co-exist.''

Along with AFH, Core Specification Version 1.2 introduced a number of new features intended to make Bluetooth wireless technology easier and more reliable to use, including:

* Enhanced Voice Processing that is designed to improve the quality of voice connections, particularly in noisy environments, using error-detection methodologies.

* Faster Connection Setup, a version of the wireless technology that allows for even faster connections to other Bluetooth wireless devices, improving the user experience.

* Backward Compatibility with Bluetooth Core Specification Version 1.1 products, a key feature in the new spec that allows users of nearly all existing Bluetooth-equipped devices to work with products built to the new spec.

Bluetooth provides up to 720 Kbps data transfer within a range of 10 meters and up to 100 meters with a power boost. Unlike IrDA, which requires line of sight, Bluetooth uses omnidirectional radio waves that can transmit through walls and other non-metal barriers.

The Bluetooth SIG was founded in 1998 to support the development of an open standard for short-range transmission of digital voice and data between mobile and desktop devices. The SIG-sponsored, three-day conference was held at the San Jose Convention Center, and ran from December 9-11.

Products that incorporate the AFH feature of Bluetooth Core Specification Version 1.2 are expected to begin shipping in the next quarter, according to the SIG.

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at john@watersworks.com.

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