A Still-Born Technology

A low-bandwidth technology, overly susceptible to noise interference and lacking a robust security protocol, Bluetooth is a fundamentally flawed technology. There exist many proponents of this view. Those who deride Bluetooth realise the potential of the concept but view its implementation as a missed opportunity. As modern communications demand increasingly higher bandwidth many see it as unforgivable that Bluetooth be incapable of coping with the kind of bandwidth which would allow the swift transfer of graphic files let alone streaming video.

The case against Bluetooth

  • One of the strongest arguments against Bluetooth is the almost superficial transport capacity offered by the 2.4Ghz band. The maximum transfer rate of 1Mbps will rarely be achieved in realistic environments and the scenario of a Bluetooth device allowing for video clips to be quickly sent to display screens may remain indefinitely in the minds of PR people.
  • The 2.4Ghz radiation freely propagates through the atmosphere and dielectric materials (walls and ceilings). The cross-talk caused by multiple devices talking to each other will cause tangible interference and possibly serious problems - data transfer does not possess the same immunity to poor communication channels as its voice counterpart.
  • The imminent release of RFID applications e.g. Intellitag, also utilising the 2.4Ghz band will only increase the level of interference in this band.
  • Despite the 10m range and frequency-hopping characteristics of Bluetooth, the freely propagating signals can be intercepted far beyond this frequency with the right equipment - parabolic antenna or amplifier. Combined with the security holes inherent in the technology, Bluetooth does not offer secure communication for dealing with confidential information.
  • A superior alternative to Bluetooth would use the 60Ghz band. Atmospheric attenuation causes complete deterioration of signals in this band after 50-100m. For this reason the 60Ghz band has been of no use to the telecommunications industry, yet, it seems almost tailor made for wireless technology such as Bluetooth. Natural attenuation considerably limits cross-talk and eradicates some security issues. Furthermore the high frequency offers a high data transfer rate.

These drawbacks and the lack of adoption of superior alternatives can only leave one to conclude that despite the best efforts of the SIG, Bluetooth is an inherently flawed technology.

The case for Bluetooth

  • Bluetooth was conceived as a WPAN (Wireless Personal Area Network), not a WLAN. As such, it offers a low profile, low cost, low power consumption wireless link. It was never intended as a replacement for LANs and so high data transfer rates were never a priority.
  • True, there are many security issues relating to Bluetooth, yet this will remain a fairly trivial issue for some time. Who, in truth would be interested in the movement parameters that a mouse sends to a CPU? Until Bluetooth becomes widely used in the business arena its security issues remain fairly trivial - if only because the effort necessary to successfully intercept and decode a transmission would be far greater than the likely return. More robust security protocols are in development and will be available with later releases of Bluetooth devices.
  • Although utilising the 60Ghz would bring some benefits, it would be complete overkill for a technology with uncomplicated goals. A hammer is not used to thread a needle, and the extra expenditure necessary to facilitate the 60Ghz would be inappropriate and commercially suicidal for a personal network.

To appreciate Bluetooth and be an impartial judge of this technology, one first has to realise what Bluetooth is, and what Bluetooth was never designed to be. Most fundamentally Bluetooth is not a wireless LAN. Although its origins lie there, it was never meant to be considered a competitor to IEEE 802.11. Bluetooth's strongest detractors deride it because of its inability to transfer large amounts of data in a reasonable time. Viewed as a wireless LAN Bluetooth is indeed an inferior technology, but taken as it is, Bluetooth is a competent technology offering unparalleled convenience.

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