The Bluetooth Special Interest Group this week announced a plan to let the Bluetooth software stack run over high-bandwidth 802.11 WiFi radios, in addition to the short-range, 1M to 3Mbps Bluetooth radios in use today.
Network World's Senior Editor John Cox asked six questions of Michael Foley, executive director of the Bluetooth SIG to get more details.
Your "alternate MAC/PHY" [AMP] development path means that the upper layer Bluetooth stack will be able to use the lower level 802.11 media access control and physical layers in addition to the existing Bluetooth baseband and physical layer. Correct?
Yes. This partnership would utilize the same plan the ultra wideband working group developed to run Bluetooth over UWB.
In practical terms, how will this actually work? For example, one use case cited by the SIG is for wirelessly bulk synchronizing music libraries between a computer and a MP3 player. Would both devices have to be outfitted with 802.11 radios and a "new" Bluetooth stack?
I imagine this will be the initial set-up, but in the future, the more attractive option would be a dual-mode chip housing both Bluetooth and 802.11 [radios]. Essentially, the connections will always be Bluetooth-enabled. But in a situation where, for example, bulk synchronization is needed, the specification will require that the high-speed radio be used. All high-speed bulk data transfers would require two Bluetooth devices that support a high-speed AMP.
The Seattle core release will require new layers to be added to the Bluetooth core stack. Some devices such as a computers, which tend to be open platforms, may allow users to integrate the new functionality [as an update].
What about existing Bluetooth devices? Will they be able to be updated?
For devices such as phones and MP3 players, which tend to be closed platforms, integrating the new functionality may not be possible. This will be dependent on the product manufacturer.
Will Bluetooth run over 802.11bg and 802.11a - in both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands? And what about 802.11n?
The scope of the 802.11 work is set, currently, to run over 802.11 a, b and g. The feasibility of supporting the 802.11n radio will be investigated and may be enabled in the future.
When did the SIG start considering 802.11? When did this decision crystallize for the members?
The SIG and our membership is always looking at and re-evaluating the wireless landscape to make sure we are offering technology that fits the demands of the consumer and the developers building products.
In the last several months we have seen numerous devices being released utilizing both a 802.11 and Bluetooth chips, most notably in mobile phones and handheld devices. In this case, it makes sense to leverage the work we have already done with [ultrawideband] to work with 802.11 in the same way.
I would say harnessing 802.11 for high speed has always been a conversation among SIG membership, but began to see real crystallization as an option in late 2007.
Will the SIG's Bluetooth-over-UWB work continue at the same pace as before, or is that effort being downgraded?
The SIG will continue to move forward at the same pace with UWB work. UWB holds a great deal of promise for our industry and the SIG will continue to work closely with the WiMedia Alliance to offer Bluetooth SIG member and Bluetooth technology users the best/fastest possible solution for their high-speed WPAN needs.