Bluetooth to ride Wifi for large transfers

Bluetooth to ride Wifi for large transfers

Next step will be to call up fat UWB data pipes

Bluetooth is to hitch a ride on Wifi when transfers of images and other large files are required, it was announced at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona today.

The fastest data rate Bluetooth can manage currently is about 3Mbit/sec – and order of magnitude slower than Wifi. But it is far more frugal in its use of power when setting up transfer or listening for transfer requests.

The plan is to marry Bluetooth eventually to ultrawideband (UWB) technology which it will use as a fat data pipe carrying upwards or 400Mbit/second.

But UWB, for regulatory and other reasons, is going to be relatively slow in coming and the governing Bluetooth Special Interest Group sees Wifi as a good alternative in the meantime. Many devices already use both Bluetooth and Wifi but as separate links rather than co-operating technologies.

Michael Foley, executive director of the Bluetooth SIG, described Wifi as the “low-hanging fruit” of wireless technology. “We’re taking... classic Bluetooth connection – using Bluetooth protocols, profiles, security and other architectural elements – and allowing it to jump on top of the already present 802.11 [Wifi] radio when necessary...

“When the speed of 802.11 is overkill, the connection returns to normal Bluetooth operation for optimal power management.”

Bluetooth organisations have already announced plan to couple the technology to Near Field Communication (NFC) used in swipe cards. The idea is that you would need only to swipe two device close together to establish a connection.

Bluetooth manufacturers claim pairing is already much easier that it was; but, justifiably or not, the technology retains a reputation for being tricky to set up.