The Wireless Tangle

PCQ Bureau
New Update

There's so much noise around wireless today, that it has raised a problem-that of choosing the right technology. In the near future, you might find several wireless technologies contending for the same space. The best example of this was GSM and CDMA. Remember the heated debates about which is better? GSM was well established when CDMA came along. Finally, both technologies ended up coexisting. The same is now happening in the short-range wireless technologies.


Currently, there's only Bluetooth that's available. But two others are likely to make their way into our lives very soon. These are ZigBee and Wireless USB. Out of these, Wireless USB is targeting similar applications as Bluetooth, while ZigBee has a different market in question, though with a bit of overlap. So the question is what's in store for us in the future? Let's look at this in more detail. 

Today, Bluetooth is the technology of choice for personal area networks. Most mobile phones, PDAs, and notebooks come with Bluetooth built in. So you can connect your notebook to your cellphone or PDA via Bluetooth, sync them up or even connect to the Internet. Another popular application of Bluetooth is the headsets for cellphones, which is a better alternative to the 'wired' hands-free devices. If you look at the official Bluetooth website (, you'll find a huge listing of products for a variety of applications at home, office, audio/visual, medical, etc. This in effect means that Bluetooth is a well-established technology in the market.

Anil Chopra


Wireless USB is expected sometime by the end of this year, and also promises to be ideal for personal area networks. Not only that, but it promises a whopping throughput of 480 Mbps between any two devices. Bluetooth's latest release, v2.0 EDR (Enhanced Data Rate) on the other hand, only offers up to 3 Mbps, which is fairly skimpy. Applications for Wireless USB overlap those for Bluetooth, eg home, office, gamers, and entertainment. In effect, Wireless USB will target the same devices that are today using the wired USB standard, which is a lot. Just think of its potential if all devices that have a wireless USB connection today were to replace it with a wireless USB one.

Let's come to ZigBee. This one is positioning itself as a low data rate wireless technology, which is interesting, considering that other technologies are moving the other way. The reason for this is ZigBee's target market-remote monitoring of lighting, heating, air-conditioning, etc of a home, office building or industry. 

This doesn't require high throughput as you only have to monitor ZigBee enabled sensors. Plus, ZigBee consumes less power, making it a perfect fit there. These sensors could run on batteries for years using ZigBee. While ZigBee's current target is sensors, it could very well enter other markets as well, such as PDAs, wireless headsets, etc, which are today Bluetooth's forte. So in effect, it might also end up playing in at least some of the markets that Bluetooth is already in.

In essence, Bluetooth is being squeezed by Zigbee from the bottom and Wireless USB from the top. Though it's going to be safe in the near future, thanks to its huge existing market, it could end up in a tight spot two years from now. May be it should also consider other markets, which others haven't yet considered.