The world's largest electronics firms have decided to use Bluetooth wireless technology to send high quality video between devices in the home, two industry associations said this week.
The decision is expected to determine how hundreds of millions of televisions, video recorders and personal computers will be connected without wires by the turn of the decade.
Until now, the global electronics industry has been struggling to choose a single wireless connection that is fast enough to connect a new generation of digital devices.
The two associations, which contain members like tech heavyweights Intel, Nokia and Microsoft, said they will cooperate to have Bluetooth-enabled devices by 2008 that can send and receive multimedia at speeds that are more than 100 times faster than current Bluetooth.
"This new version of Bluetooth technology will meet the high-speed demands of synchronising and transferring large amounts of data as well as enabling high quality video and audio applications for portable devices, multi-media projectors and television sets," the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (Bluetooth SIG) said in a statement.
Bluetooth is a short-range radio technology which is currently mostly used to connect cell phones to separate devices like headsets, printers or microphones. It is increasingly used also by the car industry.
Bluetooth, invented by Swedish telecoms group Ericsson in the 1990s,, is more than just a wireless connection. It also contains security features and protocols to connect many different devices in a small area. This is a key difference with simpler Wi-Fi short-range wireless Internet connections.
The new version of Bluetooth, which uses Ultra Wideband (UWB) radio technology, will enable connections of 100 megabits per second, compared with transfer speeds of well below 1 megabit per second for most phones available now.
Speeds of at least 10 megabits per second are necessary to exchange high quality video and television between devices.
Ultra wideband uses a high frequency radio band, which limits the possible distance between devices to 10-15 metres, just like the current, much slower Bluetooth technology.
"We definitely looking for same type of range ... one room range," Michael Foley, executive director, Bluetooth SIG, said in a conference call.
Bluetooth SIG and WiMedia Alliance said the Bluetooth solution would use unlicensed radio spectrum above 6 GHz.
Foley said that the development work will focus on keeping Bluetooth's strengths, like low power consumption and security features, in the new version. It would also be compatible with the current Bluetooth format which is already installed in more than 500 million devices.
The installed base of Bluetooth devices is projected to surpass one billion units by the end of 2006, he said.
The associations said they expect the first examples of the new technology to be available for prototyping in the second quarter of 2007. The first devices that will contain the new Bluetooth are expected to reach consumers in early 2008.