Data transfer rates to jump with Bluetooth 3.0

A standards group today approved specifications for a new Bluetooth standard that speeds up wireless data transfers between devices like smartphones and laptops.

The new Bluetooth 3.0 standard boosts wireless data transfers between devices from 3Mbit/sec. to 24Mbit/sec., said Michael Foley, executive director of the Bluetooth Special Interest Group, a group developing the standard. The Bluetooth 3.0 specification is an update from the Bluetooth 2.1 protocol, which was adopted by the group in 2007.

Bluetooth wireless technology is commonly used to pair mobile phones with wireless headsets for hands-free talking. It is also used to connect a cell phone to a laptop to synchronize data or transfer multimedia files without using wires. Over 2 billion Bluetooth-equipped devices have shipped, according to Bluetooth SIG.

Today's announcement is the first step toward adoption of the standard, and devices based on the Bluetooth 3.0 specification could ship later this year or early next year.

“We might see a handful [of devices] as early as this holiday season, but it usually takes nine to 12 months post specification adoption to see products on the market,” Foley said.

The faster data transfers could lead to Bluetooth 3.0's adoption in a number consumer electronics devices beyond just mobile phones.

“We expect Bluetooth 3.0 to make its way into PCs, mobile phones, camcorders, cameras, TVs, digital presenters — devices that consumers use to transfer large data files like those of video, photographs and even entire music libraries,” Foley said.

The standard supports faster data transfers while using less power, giving consumers improved responsiveness and better battery life in mobile devices, Foley said. It also stabilizes connections between devices, ironing out kinks from earlier standards that led to, for example, connections being disrupted when a user placed a device like a cell phone in his pocket.

The Bluetooth 3.0 radio is based on Wi-Fi standards, enabling better data throughput while delivering power-saving benefits for mobile devices.

“Although the high-speed radio itself can be more taxing on a battery than the classic Bluetooth radio — the high-speed radio is also able to send data faster and can therefore be in use for a shorter period of time,” Foley said.

Bluetooth 3.0 uses short bursts of Wi-Fi to send data, and then the radio is shut off until it is needed again.

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