Carrier WiFi

The Other Qualcomm Deal

4:40 PM -- It’s no secret that I’ve not been much of a fan of Bluetooth for most of its history. BT was overhyped beyond belief, and regardless, I though it was simply unnecessary given the likely evolutionary path of WiFi. But if we separate the BT protocols from the radio, as the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) is doing with the ultra-wideband-based Bluetooth 2, marvelous things can happen, and they are.

One place where BT has clearly already been successful is in headsets, and that means that handsets need a BT radio in them even if just for that purpose. That’s why Qualcomm Inc. (Nasdaq: QCOM) bought the BT assets of RF Micro Devices Inc. (Nasdaq: RFMD) recently. You can’t build a do-it-all handset without BT.

But that got me to thinking: Does this mean that BT will be around forever? I have, for some time, observed that a large installed base can mitigate a lot of other market-related factors, and there is most certainly a huge installed base of Bluetooth headsets. Yes, even I use one. Let’s suppose that we want to use ultra-wideband to replace Bluetooth -- a good choice for a radio, and BT protocols run on UWB. But will consumers buy new headsets, or will handset manufacturers need to support Bluetooth for a very long time? Its going to be expensive (in handset terms, a dollar is expensive) to put both radios in, so this might mean that UWB is going to be a tough sell to the handset guys for some time.

While BT headsets are cheap (a good one is around $20), I think it will take a very long time to phase them out. This guarantees BT a place in the handset for probably the next five years at least. Qualcomm can certainly make its money back on the RFMD deal by then.

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

dickcaro 12/5/2012 | 3:31:58 AM
re: The Other Qualcomm Deal Bluetooth is supposed to minimize battery power consumption. In my experience, if I want to get any battery life on my Bluetooth cellphone, I have to turn off the Bluetooth radio when I am away from my desk. With BT on, I get about 24 hrs of battery life in Standby; with BT off, I get about 3 days of battery life. Some difference. I hope that BT2 using UWB does better on battery life - it's supposed to.
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