by August 11, 2003 0 comments

Wi-Fi is deployed on LANs while Bluetooth is suitable for Personal Area Networks

Is Wi-Fi similar to Bluetooth? No. It is quite at the other end of the technological spectrum. While Wi-Fi is deployed on a LAN, Bluetooth is used to create a PAN (Personal Area Network). The only similarity between the two is that they work on the same frequency and both are wireless. While Bluetooth is more applicable in connecting two point-to-point devices, Wi-Fi is more of a network (multi-point) protocol. Bluetooth is more of a wireless alternative for connecting devices such as digital cameras, PDAs and mobile phones with each other or with a computer. Though it fulfils that purpose, it cannot be taken as a serious networking protocol for many reasons, such as low bandwidth (about 700 KB/sec ) and a short area of operation (around 10m). It has some basic networking capabilities with its ability to interconnect up to eight devices at a time. The place where it scores over Wi-Fi is in its need for power. Bluetooth needs much less power to operate compared to Wi-Fi and thus is preferred for connections and data transfers in low-powered handhelds where battery life is very critical.

Wi-Fi is aimed at networking computers with each other without wires. It is used in conjunction with access points that are connected with the network through wires and provide wireless access to Wi-Fi-enabled laptops and handhelds in a particular area. It has much higher bandwidth than Bluetooth (11 Mb/sec with 802.11b) and an access point can operate up to 100 ft.

Another consideration with the two technologies is that since they work on the same frequency, they may pose a problem when some of them are being used in close proximity.

India unwired

Media Lab Asia’s DakNet project is an interesting and innovative use of Wi-Fi. Here, a high-speed Internet hub is set up in a city connected via RF links with a vehicle. The vehicle houses 802.11x access points and village kiosks are set up that can connect to the Internet as and when this vehicle comes in range. A bus serving several villages can provide postman-like e-mail delivery and information exchange at minimal infrastructural cost and investment. 

And so, while we spent the last ten years wiring up India, we can spend the next ten, unwiring it.

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