Philippines agency eyes Bluetooth development

The Philippines Advanced Science Technology Institute (ASTI) is scheduled to complete the development of a software protocol stack for Bluetooth technology next month. The software protocol stack will be the foundation for the development of products and applications using Bluetooth, Ian Chan Wong, ASTI's Bluetooth project director, told Computerworld Philippines.

"For the first phase of our project, we aim to come out with this core software on which Bluetooth applications can be developed," said Wong.

Bluetooth is a short-range radio technology aimed at simplifying communications among networked devices and between devices and the Internet by using radio, thus removing the need for wires.

The development project is funded by the Virtual Center for Technology Innovation on Radio Frequency-Microelectronics, which is a component of the Department of Science and Technology's (DOST) Comprehensive Program to Enhance Technology Enterprises (Project Compete).

Wong said initial funding was pegged at 1 million pesos (US$20,790) just for the development of the software protocol stack. "As we move on to the other phases of the project, we expect more funds to come in," he said.

The Bluetooth project is a 5-year plan with the goal of producing a system-on-a-chip product that uses Bluetooth technology by the year 2005.

"After the software protocol stack has been developed, we will move on to the next phase -- that is coming out with the software that encompasses all the functionality for Bluetooth," Wong explained, adding that ASTI is expected to make its own Bluetooth chipset by the year 2003.

He added that licensing arrangements will be implemented so that developers can use the core software to develop Bluetooth applications. "This will be during the first two years of the project because we do incremental development. By 2005, we hope to put out in the market a complete product that uses Bluetooth technology," said Wong.

There are also initial talks with some local firms on the possible use of the software but Wong admitted that these are just preliminary discussions and nothing has been finalized.

Wong said the biggest challenge for the project is the availability of the ISM (industrial scientific and medical) band or the 2.4 gigahertz (GHz)band. "Bluetooth uses this frequency to send data," he added. The Philippines National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) licensed the use of the 2.4GHz frequency to the Manila Electric Company (Meralco).

In a related development, the NTC announced last month a plan to clean up the frequency spectrum used for wireless communications to give way to new mobile communications technologies such as 3G and Bluetooth. "We are already preparing for these new technologies when they come into the country," said Edgardo Cabarios, head of the NTC common carriers accreditation division.

Cabarios noted that 2- and 2.4GHz frequency bands are still being used by other private companies but said that possible interference in these bands, particularly the 2.4GHz, would be "minimal".

"Bluetooth is low-powered and operates at a distance of about 10 meters only, so I think it would not cause interference unless it is a direct hit," Cabarios said. "Meralco's transmission is only between substations and it works like a remote control. Its transmitters are directed only to specific points."

NTC aims to free up the use of the 2GHz band for 3G mobile phone technology, while the 2.4GHz will be used for the Bluetooth technology.

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