"These [Bluetooth] access points can be easily attached to existing corporate networks," says Nigel Ballard, Cerulic's vice president of product strategy. "They receive Bluetooth in one end and send standard Ethernet [media access control] packets out the back end."
Ballard predicts a tidal wave of Bluetooth-equipped products, initially with snap-in cards. The value of Bluetooth connectivity will rise as more devices can share data and applications, and rise further as this data and these applications can be shared with information on the corporate network, he adds.
But even supporters of the technology are cautious about some of the Bluetooth nnetwork scenarios, and especially any suggestion that Bluetooth could succeed as a wireless LAN. Bluetooth runs at 720K bit/sec, and doesn't let users move through different zones and still stay connected, a feature called "roaming," says Ron Sperano, program director for mobile market development at IBM. By contrast, existing 802.11b wireless LANs run at 11M bit/sec and handle roaming users.
Security for Bluetooth remains a stubborn problem, as even Cerulic's Ballard acknowledges. "Nothing is 100% secure," he points out. Gartner Group warned in September that corporate users need to ensure that vendors have made their products secure. Bluetooth has a discovery protocol that lets devices automatically find each other and even start interacting. Gartner warns that in such cases, users can unintentionally expose access and data to unauthorized users.
Interference in the 2.4-GHz band is another worry because that band of unlicensed spectrum is also used by 802.11b LANs and devices such as microwave ovens. Bluetooth conducts fast, clean hopping over the frequencies in the band to minimize interference.
"If the projections [of Bluetooth devices] come through, with billions of devices in a few years, you can anticipate some problems in certain areas," says Ander Edlund, marketing director for Bluetooth at Ericsson Mobile Communications.
The Bluetooth Special Interest Group is continually testing for interference, according to a statement by Intel, a SIG member. "Bluetooth will not 'stomp all over 802.11' [though] there may be a chance of performance degradation," the statement read.