Bluetooth breakthrough will cut costs

Mobile phones and palmtop PCs with Bluetooth short-range wireless capabilities are rarer currently than hens' teeth and carry a premium price tag. They also draw much more power than conventional devices and are more bulky because of the extra components.

Nat Semi's new chipset requires less than half the power of its previous Bluetooth chipset, so the batteries of mobiles using it should last far longer.

Several manufacturers are currently evaluating the chipset and plan to build devices ready for Christmas.

"In theory the chipset could bring down prices, but for the next two years products with Bluetooth capabilities will continue to command a premium," predicted Salvatori Napolitani, marketing manager for wireless products at Nat Semi.

Right now, adding Bluetooth capabilities to a high-end mobile phone puts an extra $US20-30 on a $US250 phone. Using a mass-produced Bluetooth chipset would slash that to around $US10.

The chipset will have most impact on peripherals. For example, Ericsson's Bluetooth headset costs about five times the price of a conventional headset. Using a cheaper chipset would cut the price considerably and reduce its size, too.

By the end of the year, Nat Semi will have shrunk the chipset down to a single chip, further reducing the cost, size and power consumption of Bluetooth-enabled devices.

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