Companies bet on Bluetooth headsets

The wireless future is on its way, and holding your mobile phone in your hand while using it may soon be a thing of the past, or at least that's what companies making Bluetooth-enabled headsets are claiming here at the CTIA (Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association) Wireless 2001 conference.

Bluetooth is a standard for short-distance wireless communications, which can connect devices at speeds of up to 1M bps (bits per second) at distances up to 10 meters. The market for Bluetooth products is set to be a US$2.5 billion market this year, according to a recent study by Frost & Sullivan Ltd., the U.K. branch of US-based Frost & Sullivan Inc., and companies aren't about to let that opportunity slip away. Plantronics Inc. announced its new Bluetooth headset, the Plantronics M1000, which will be powered by the second-generation Bluetooth chipset, manufactured by Widcomm Inc. The M1000 only weighs 26 grams and rests on the ear, held in place by a small ear loop. The headset has a single button, which can be used to turn the headset on or off, in cases of listening to audio from a PDA (personal digital assistant), or for answering and hanging up the phone when used in combination with a Bluetooth-enabled mobile phone. A second control acts as a volume dial or can be used as a mute button by pressing it.

The headset runs on nickel metal hydride batteries and can be fully charged in an hour to provide up to 100 hours of use. The M1000 is due to ship in July, for US$149.95, Plantronics said in a statement.

Plantronics also announced a new headset designed for office use, which uses Bluetooth technology to communicate with a headset amplifier, or directly into a telephone with a headset port. No pricing information was available for the headset, which is due to ship in the third quarter of this year.

Danish manufacturer GN Netcom Inc. was also showing a second-generation Bluetooth headset. The product, not yet named, follows the company's GN9000. It weighs 28 grams and is 5 centimeters in diameter. The headset includes a 5 cm microphone and a speaker in a single unit. The microphone folds directly into the headset when not in use. Battery life and recharge time for the headset are similar to those for standard mobile phones, the company said in a statement. Pricing and availability were not immediately available.

Swedish mobile telecommunications giant L.M. Ericsson Telephone Co., one of the original companies behind Bluetooth, announced in a press conference here that its first Bluetooth headset, which is currently shipping in Europe, will begin shipping in the US in a matter of weeks.

Plantronics, in Santa Cruz, California, can be reached at +1-831-426-5858, or found on the Web at GN Netcom, in Ballerup, Denmark, can be reached at +45-72-11-86-86, or on the Web at Ericsson, in Stockholm, can be reached at +46-8-719-0000, or

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