The Missing Link

2:00 PM -- While I’ve never been a huge fan of Bluetooth, even I have to confess that there’s a lot of good stuff in there. So how come the carriers are dragging their feet on bringing all that to us?

About six years ago, I predicted that Bluetooth (BT) would suffer the same fate as the IrDA infrared standard: a huge installed based, but few users. And, with the exception of BT headsets, that’s come to pass. Part of the problem is the slow throughput of Bluetooth, and its very limited range. But that’s radio stuff -- the BT applications stack is rich and robust. It’s been ported to ultra-wideband (UWB), and I think this combination will have a long and happy life.

Except that the cellular carriers continue to cripple BT functionality. Have a look, for example, at Verizon Wireless’s position. The most glaring omission is support for dial-up networking -- the ability to use a BT handset as a relay point for another device, like a notebook computer -- being available on only one handset. Why? Well, my guess is that Verizon simply doesn’t have enough capacity to support all the users who would really like to do this. It’s often challenging to set up, but really useful once you do.

I’m assuming BT on UWB is going to be very, very popular. In advance of this, it is time for the carriers to free Bluetooth. I’m sure it won’t do much good, but call your carrier and make sure they get the message.

— Craig Mathias is Principal Analyst at the Farpoint Group , an advisory firm specializing in wireless communications and mobile computing. Special to Unstrung

markjx 12/5/2012 | 3:57:53 AM
re: The Missing Link I am with Craig in not being a huge Bluetooth fan.

I disagree, however, with his assertion that BT is suffering due to range and datarate limitations. I believe just the opposite....that for the function that it almost exclusively being used (full duplex toll-grade voice communications) it is a bloated overkill. The BT SIG thought up every possible application that BT *could* be used for, and put hooks and profiles into the BT standard to deal with these.

I believe that BT will find its greatest-best use when the carriers agree to purchase and bundle BT headsets with their phones. THEN, at least, most BT chips will actually get turned on and used!

Then again, at that point, there would be no need for an ad-hoc networked, 10 meter range, 1Mb/s wireless link, since the handset vendor would own the entire link and therefore would be much better served with a proprietary protocol (much like the game console companies are demanding) that is specifically tailored for point-to-point full duplex voice communications and would boast lower fundamental cost and power consumption.

As for BT linking up with UWB, this appears to be the most blatant and open admission of failure by the BT SIG. Yes, hundreds of millions of BT chips are being sold each year, but only a handful ever get used. I wonder how much longer carriers will be willing to subsidize these superfluous devices, especially as market forces push them into purchasing even MORE radios to add functions such as mobile video or internet access.

Finally, I can't fathom the argument that carriers are crippling phones due to an excess of demand for a service for which they could greatly improve their ARPU in an era of eroding profitability for basic services.
Sign In