Bluetooth 3.0 released: Ready to play with the big boys

Tokyo (Japan) – The Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) today announced the release of the Bluetooth 3.0 +HS specification, which increases the wireless standard’s bandwidth by a significant margin and turns Bluetooth into the product it should have been a few years ago. Finally, there is an opportunity for the technology to reach for products beyond the headset.

A few days ago, I pulled out an old picture of the first commercial Bluetooth card released, back in 2000, and remembered how painful it was to use the technology, when data was transferred at less than 50 kB/s. Nine years later, Bluetooth is finally what we imagined it to be at the beginning of this decade.

Bluetooth 3.0 + HighSpeed (HS) lifts the maximum bandwidth from 3 Megabit/s (Mb/s) with 6 ft to 24 Mb/s within 10 ft. Shifting data at a peak speed of 3 Megabyte/s (MB/s) is a quantum leap over the first generation and even the preceding 2.1 + EDR version. However, it is substantially slower than what was originally planned – Bluetooth 3.0- was originally planned to use UWB technology.

Previously, the SIG said that the new Bluetooth technology would be using a traditional 2.4 GHz radio as well as an additional 8 GHz UWB radio to hit data rates of at least 53.3 Mb/s.

The organization still went with the dual-radio approach, but Bluetooth 3.0 ended up with the Wi-Fi 802.11 radio protocol. The inclusion of the 802.11 Protocol Adaptation Layer (PAL) provides the increased throughput capability. Other changes in Bluetooth 3.0 include “enhanced power control” as well as new data encryption technologies. No features were dropped from version 2.1 + EDR to 3.0 + HS. The SIG said that the rollout of Bluetooth 3.0 products is “eminent”.

The bandwidth of the new wireless standard may be disappointing in some respect, but a data rate of about 3 MB/s is clearly enough for more than just connecting a headset to a cellphone – and it will interesting to see whether it is too late for the technology to move into application fields that are now have been occupied by Wi-Fi. The SIG still indicates that most applications for Bluetooth will be limited to the cellphone, but it is now much more convenient to synchronize music, send video from a cellphone to a TV and download pictures from your phone to a PC.