Wi-Fi Direct and Bluetooth – battle to the death?

The media lapped up the recent press release from the Wi-Fi Alliance, announcing the birth of Wi-Fi Direct.  Almost to a man, they decided once again that it would kill Bluetooth.  I suspect that Bluetooth will prove to have something in common with Mark Twain, being able to sit back and calmly repeat that “the report of my death is an exaggeration”.

For many of the reports, that analysis seems to be based on little more than the relative number of press releases that the two organisations send out.  For some reason known only to itself, the Bluetooth SIG is remarkably reticent about publicising its technology, preferring to sit quietly on its laurels of shipments of over a billion chips per year (1,050 million in 2008 – IMS).  Wi-Fi tends to be more vociferous about its plans, possibly stung by the fact that it manages to ship only just over a third of that (387 million in 2008 – Instat).  As is often the case with young pretenders, noise can be rather more noticeable than actions.  (Incidentally, no other short range standard gets within an order of magnitude of the lower of these figures.)

A few articles dug down a bit more into the technology itself, and came to less of a conclusion as a result.  None of them thought about what really matters, which is what the user experience will look like.  So let’s do exactly that…

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Peer-to-peer vs Femtocells. Let the topology war begin.

Two of the new wireless technologies that have come to the fore this year are high speed peer to peer connectivity and femtocells.  Although they may not appear to have any obvious connection, I would argue that they do.  Moreover that connection is so strong that they will end up fighting a technology war between themselves for a key customer application.  That’s because they both have a major impact on the way that users transfer data between their personal devices.  Today these two technologies are barely aware of each other – they’re both too busy gazing at their respective technical navels and ignoring the user requirements.  Within twelve months, when they understand the real use cases they’re enabling, they may well be at each other’s throats.

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Will NanoAPs and HomePlug kill the Femtocell?

This is going to be the year of the Femtocell.  At least that’s the message that the industry is putting forward. Next month at the Mobile Congress in Barcelona, the industry is likely to be united in singing off that particular hymn sheet. However, an RFQ from a network operator that was put out just before Christmas suggests that opinion might not be as solid as the industry hype portrays. Rather than looking for femtocells, this particular operator was contemplating the deployment of small 802.11 access points around the home, connected together and to the broadband line using HomePlug. The implication is that instead of providing a personal 3G cell in the home to compensate for their lack of indoor coverage, they’d prefer to flood it with Wi-Fi. It’s an interesting approach…

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