Bluetooth’s had a speed dilemma for quite some time now. After introducing new modulation and coding schemes with Bluetooth 2.0 already back in 2004 it seems to be impractical to push speeds beyond 2 MBit/s on the original Bluetooth physical layer. A speed upgrade, however, is direly needed as file sizes of photos and videos grow. Also, network speeds of HSDPA and EV-DO networks already surpass Bluetooth 2.0 speeds, thus rendering it unsuitable as a technology to connect notebooks to phones for high speed wireless Internet access.
In 2005/2006 the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) decided to use the Ultra Wide Band (UWB) standard of the WiMedia Alliance as a phyiscal layer. Up to today, however, standards have not been published and no devices are in sight. Instead, it is now rumored that the SIG has started talks with the 802.11 working group to also use Wifi as a physical layer for future Bluetooth versions.
The rumors are spread by two reliable German technology and telecommunication magazines, Heise News and Teltarif. Unfortunately they are only quoting "well informed circles" and do not give any references for their claims. The English speaking world seems not to have picked up on it so far, my Google search came up empty. If you’ve seen this rumor somewhere else, please leave a comment with the link.
Too little too late?
I wonder if faster Bluetooth is still needed as other wireless alternatives are already on the market today. Many phones such as Nokia’s N-Series phones (think N80, N93, N95…) have Wifi on board, as have many Windows Mobile PDA’s. These devices could use their wifi chips in access point mode as suggested here to offer notebooks (plural!) access to the Internet via their fast HSDPA or EV-DO chips. As far as I know none of these devices actually allow this today but the hardware is in place. No need for an extra Bluetooth stack on top.
For other uses such as large picture and video file transfers other alternatives that use Wifi are already available today as well. Nokia has put Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) into some of their N-Series phones to connect their devices to the digital home.
If Bluetooth wants to play a role in this market in the future the SIG has quite some catch-up to play or else Bluetooth will be doomed in the future as a technology for wireless headset connection and as slow data exchange protocol for small files.