CDMA's Blue Secret

One of the major reasons there are hardly any Bluetooth devices in the U.S. is that the major CDMA carriers have simply not sourced handsets that incorporate the short-range connectivity chips (see Bluetooth Stateside?).

Yet it seems clear from postings on our message boards that at least some people see Bluetooth as a feature worth having, and would buy compatible handsets from Sprint PCS (NYSE: PCS) and Verizon Wireless if any were available.

So Unstrung called the carriers to see when, or if, they plan to introduce Bluetooth-enabled handsets to the hungry public. (Don't say we never do anything for you people.) The answers we got were spookily similar.

The Verizon spokeswoman couldn't comment on "strategic information." "Why would I preannounce that?" she asked, chuckling slightly. "Then all my competition can see it and beat me." The Sprint person said she couldn't comment at this time for "competitive reasons." Boring! Still, as they say in the kitchens of food-to-go emporia the world over, there's more than one way to skin a cat. Seamus McAteer, principal analyst at the Zelos Group LLC, expects to see Sprint and Verizon start to stock their channels with Bluetooth phones by about the third quarter of next year, or by the end of 2003 at least.

So why are they so late, Seamus? "The CDMA guys have really dragged their feet on this. They just don't see it as a priority."

Qualcomm Inc. (Nasdaq: QCOM), the motherlode for all things CDMA, has an integrated circuit (IC) department that is "aggressive" about adopting new trends, according to McAteer. It has had CDMA chips in its Mobile Station Modem (MSM) line available for a couple of years with integrated Bluetooth baseband processing, meaning that manufacturers only have to add the 2.4GHz radio element, rather than a separate Bluetooth chip.

"In the past six months, [Qualcomm has] built an interface to the RF," McAteer says. Broadcom Corp. (Nasdaq: BRCM) is supplying the radio element.

This kind of setup should eventually make it cheaper to put Bluetooth in CDMA phones. "They can really get it down to $3 [a chip]," McAteer says. At the moment it costs $8 or $9 to implement Bluetooth. "That's a significant cost in this market," notes the Zelos man.

— Dan Jones, Senior Editor, Unstrung
gigeguy 12/4/2012 | 9:11:05 PM
re: CDMA's Blue Secret End of 2003? By that time, it'll be too late - VZW will have lost their US coverage advantage to the GSM guys (T-Mobile, AT&T, Cingular), who also have the coolest handsets, including BT-enabled world phones. VZW's also more expensive than the GSM guys for the most part ... can you say churn?
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