Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Bluetooth, taking hands-free to next level

Features of the week:

Bluetooth is a new wave of excitement currently cutting across telecom subscribers in Nigeria, Remmy Nweke, examines how the wireless solution could be optimised.

Willy Okpe, 30, is a graphic designer based in Orita area of Ibadan in Western Nigeria. His desire to keep date with Information and Communications Technology (ICT) wave that is fast growing in the country with the advent of the Global System for Mobile communications (GSM) encouraged him to buy a mobile phone set, which comes with an ear piece.

On a good day, Willy usually adorns himself with an ear piece connected to the handset in his pocket or pouch through a cable stretching up to his ear, then he adds up another mobile phone which he hangs on his neck through a stripe, then a digital camera that he uses to make an impressive documentary on his belt.

In his office, Willy looks very sophisticated as it were but on a second thought, a colleague described him recently as a suicide bomber awaiting to explode due to his appearance; two phones and a camera. This remark, however, did not go down well with Willy as it left him with the thought for another option that could be wireless, at least, to minimise the number of ear-piece cables he has literally wired himself with.

Willy is not alone. Since the GSM made its debut over five years ago, a unique feature among Nigerians, has been the use of mobile handset ear piece for calls, music and radio, which almost changed the acronym GSM to ‘General Street Madness (GSM)’, because some people have formed the habit of talking through the wired headsets connected between their phones in the pockets and ears, making it somewhat difficult to really know when GSM users are making calls or talking on phone without soliloquising.

Inquiries with an ICT expert pointed at the use of Bluetooth to scale down if not eliminate the amount of wiring people like Willy carry around on daily basis. So, he went online and a search landed him at, which is the international Special Interest Group (SIG) on bluetooth accessories, where he could find some help and tips on how to migrate to his dream of wireless communications.

What’s Bluetooth?

Known among experts as an industrial standard for low power, short range, radio communication between devices, Bluetooth enables mobile phones, computers, Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) and related devices to communicate across short distances, by providing a Personal Area Network (PAN) also known as Piconet.

Equally Bluetooth operates in famous Industrial, Scientific and Medical (ISM) band that exists within the 2.4 Gega Hertz (GHz) band; referred to as 2.4GHz to 2.4835GHz in the United States and Europe or 2.472GHz to 2.497GHz in Japan.

Mobile phones and Wi-Fi devices also operate in this band, hence the likelihood for interference, experts at the United States-based said, that the Bluetooth technology uses Adaptive Frequency Hopping (AFH) to reduce interference by hopping through the available frequencies to minimize the effects of interference.

Currently, Bluetooth is planned to allow three classes of device, each with difference in power requirements and maximum ranges, consisting of class one which has 100 milliwatts (mW) and approximated range of 100 metres; class two has 2.5 mW and 10 metres about 30 feets and class three comes with 1mW for 1 meter.

This means that a Bluetooth enabled device such as mobile phones, when connected and switched on, could be left in the bedroom while the owner wears the headset in the sitting room or just outside a company parameter and still receives calls without hitches within a given distance of about 100 meters if on class one model among other options.

Therefore, Bluetooth allows data to be transmitted at up to 1 mega bit per second (mbps) or up to 3mbps with Enhanced Data Rate (EDR), which has been available since November 2004 in version 2.0+, against the version 1.2 that was adopted in November 2003, just as each Bluetooth device is uniquely identified by an exclusive 48-bit identifier.

Simply put, Bluetooth is a specification for short distance wireless communication between devices that could be from two to upto eight as gathered lately, mostly via Plantronic brand.

History of Bluetooth

Almost all the known brands in mobile communications now has one series of bluetooth brand or another. From Ericsson to Siemens, Nokia, Motorola to LG. Invariably the history of bluetooth globally would not be complete without the mention of Ericsson as the first inventor.

Historically, Bluetooth was first made public by Ericsson on May 20, 1999 and was officially harmonised and promoted by the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG). Today, manufacturers have encouraged the establishment of brand specific interest group, such as Sony Ericsson, IBM, Intel, Toshiba and Nokia.

The name “Bluetooth” according to Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) was taken from the 10th century Danish King Harald Blatand or Harold Bluetooth in English. At early stages of the trade association a code name was required to propagate the product and over an evening discussion on European history and the future of wireless technology discussants felt it was appropriate to name the technology after King Blatand. He had been instrumental in uniting warring factions in parts of what is now Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. Just as the technology is designed to allow collaboration between differing industries such as the computing, mobile phone, and automotive markets. Obviously the code name stuck.

Relatively, a Scandinavian firm originally designed the logo at the time the trade association was announced to the public kept with the traditions of the name, as the logo combines the runic alphabetic characters “H” which looks similar to an asterisk and “B”.

Since Bluetooth technology was created in 1998, the Bluetooth SIG and its member companies have achieved some great milestones including adoption of its name. This feat was followed in 1999 with the release of the Bluetooth 1.0 specification and a year later, the first Bluetooth consumer products hit the market - a Bluetooth headset and phone adapter from Ericsson.

In 2001, the Bluetooth SIG was incorporated as a privately held trade association and before the end of 2002, Bluetooth wireless technology has over 500 qualified products in the market place globally.

In the following year, 2003, SIG adopted Bluetooth core specification version 1.2, even as Bluetooth product shipments exceeded one million per week and a year later, in 2004, SIG approved version 2.0+ an Enhanced Data Rate (EDR), with installation in over 250 million devices, while product shipments go beyond 3 million per week with SIG membership hitting 3000.

By 2005, SIG and Ultra-Wideband (UWB) forum announced collaboration to take Bluetooth to the next level in technology, even as shipments rose to 5m chipsets per week as it recorded the 4000th member. Before the year ended, SIG also set up headquarters in Seattle, United States with regional offices in Europe and Asia-Pacific, precisely in Malmö, Sweden and Hong Kong.

Although online encyclopaedia, Wikipedia informed that ‘unofficial story’ showed that the name, Bluetooth came from the book ‘The Long Ships’ by Frans Gunnar Bengtsson.

Then again, Bluetooth technology has undergone several evolutions as of today; it has not only been added into mobile phones to access the Internet but has even ventured into cars.

Noteworthy is that the first manufacturer to put Bluetooth technology in their cars was BMW, in the 3 series, 5 series and the X5. The input affords users with Bluetooth equipped phones to be able to use some of the phone’s features, such as making calls, while the phone itself could be left in a suitcase or in the car boot.


One thing is getting a device and another is knowing how to connect same correctly, especially if it is wireless solution. Most Bluetooth brands in the market today are compatible with several other products from various manufacturers.

For instance, a Sony Ericsson HBH-PV700 Bluetooth headset which weighs 23 grammes and ranges up to 10 metres with five hours talk time; is compatible to 89 mobile phones with 39 from Sony Ericsson, Nokia 17, Motorola 14, Samsung 7, Sagem 1, Siemens 2, Blackberry 1, Qtek 2, Panasonic 1, Sharp 3 and LG 5 as at the time of going to the press, according to investigations and so is most of the Bluetooth brands in the market today.


For you to enjoy Bluetooth connection on your devices, it must be activated thus enabling mobile phones and headsets to work together as a way of introducing the devices to each other.

Within the Bluetooth parlance, activation or connection is also known as pairing, adding or bonding and this is a significant part of connecting to Bluetooth. Users interfacing implementation process as laid down by manufacturers could differ from one device to another, despite some very basic steps to go through in connecting two devices for the first time.

Experts at Bluetooth SIG advise users to always conduct the pairing process in a secure environment. At first, every new Bluetooth devices should be charged before connection could be made or turn on. Although in some devices, like Bluetooth wireless headsets, powering up the device could also initiate the pairing process.

By turning the Bluetooth functionality on in a device makes it visible and as a security measure, some devices allow the Bluetooth functionality to be off, hidden, or visible and its up to the user to check these functionalities in affirmation.

When trying to connect devices, SIG said, users should make the devices visible so that they could discover one another. After the devices are paired, users could set the devices to hidden if they have concerns about being discovered by others unknown to them.

Real pairing takes place by placing both devices in the connection mode after duly charged, powered up, and the Bluetooth functionality turned on; each device needs to initiate a communication session. Normally, in a connection between two devices, one device acts as the ‘host’ and the other as the ‘guest.’ The device in the host role is the one with the user interface from which most of the connection setup will take place, pointing out that a device could be in the host role with one device and in the guest role with another device.

For example, in a phone and wireless headset pairing, the phone is the host. However, in a phone and laptop pairing, the laptop is the host.

Followed by responding to the request by entering the passcode, which at default is four – 0000, but could be changed as users deem fit on one or both devices.

In some cases, SIG noted that like with wireless headsets, the passcode is a fixed passcode assigned to the headset by the manufacturer. In those cases, the user enters the assigned passcode into the host device. The user will find this passcode in the user manual. In other cases, the user will be able to enter in his or her own passcode from onset.

Conseqently, the user will enter the passcode once into each device. It is highly recommended that users employ an eight character alphanumeric passcode for the one-time pairing process. After the passcode is entered, the devices will validate one another and complete the establishment of a trusted connection.

Similarly, trusted devices could be deleted or disconnected based on priority, especially when one of the devices is lost or stolen, “you should unpair that device with all the devices to which it was previously paired,” while an option of adding new device is up to the user.

Specific pairing on headset

A specific pairing could occur between Bluetooth wireless headset to Bluetooth mobile phone, by finding the connectivity settings of the phone, but ensure that Bluetooth connectivity is on and visible, before choosing to add new device.

Initiate connection session on both devices by the pairing process on the headset, would require the user to press and possibly hold a button for about five seconds, whereas the mobile phone would prompt user for passcode. Enter in the passcode assigned to the wireless headset, and allow devices to complete the pairing process.

The Bluetooth bug:

This bug has since caught up with some Nigerian telecom subscribers and Champion Infotel went to town to sample opinion on Bluetooth.

Adducing reasons for his choice of Bluetooth, Manager, Legal/Regulatory at the Interconnect ClearingHouse Nigeria Limited, Mr. Ihuefo Udeh, told Champion Infotel that he uses Nokia Bluetooth headset because it offers him convenience, comfort and efficiency at the same time. Hence he does not always have to bring up his hand to the ear to answer calls and usually have busy phone because of the nature of his work.

According to him, the convenience it affords could be experienced in the office, that is, by talking on the phone while using your two hands to either write or look for something and indeed do other things without affecting your conversation. Another instance given by Mr. Udeh, was that if driving, he uses his two hands more efficiently and avoids the danger of not only losing concentration but also escaping the law, which has made it a traffic offence for anyone to be using phone while driving.

“I have been using bluetooth for about 1 year and I use a Nokia Bluetooth and have Nokia phones all connected to it. Nokia phones and accessories are very user-friendly, works efficiently and are rugged,” he said.

On the implication, Mr. Udeh declared that the emissions from Bluetooth has been proved to be too minimal to be harzadous to either the ear or other organs of the body, noting that telecom users even have stronger emissions using the phones directly.

Though he encouraged Nigerians to embrace the use of Bluetooth headsets with their mobile phones, explaining that what he did was to divert one of the phones to another, probably the host from where he now answers calls.

For the communications manager, LM Ericsson Nigeria, Mr. Bode Sowunmi, who began to use it less than a year ago, said Bluetooth headsets are more convenient. He sticked to Ericsson brand because Ericsson invented bluetooth, stressing that it helps him to control appliances remotely, such as TV, stereo to name a few, although his primary usage is for the phone.

Mr. Sowunmi would like to see Bluetooth special interest group emerging from Nigeria so as to share information and maximise the benefits.

Speaking on why the choice of Bluetooth headset, a Lagos-based Personal Assistant to a Managing Director, Mr. Uche Ogidi, told Champion Infotel that his newly acquired Samsung Bluetooth brand is serving him well and avails efficient communications in terms of driving. “You can easily receive calls,” he said, emphasising that it is a wonderful development that should be encouraged among telecom subscribers in the country.

Marketing Expert, Mr. Seun Odah, who uses Plantronic brand, said his Bluetooth headset connects to four different phones and looks forward to having another series in Plantronic that could connect eight phones, noting that the bluetooth aspect has been very useful.


Nowadays, most Bluetooth headsets in the market and Nigerian telecom sphere precisely are ‘universal’ in mechanism, meaning that they are compatible with lots of mobile phones, which may not necessarily be of the same brand. Therefore offering subscribers a large choice to choose from.

While non universal type of bluetooth currently could be purchased between N2,500 and N3,500, universal type goes from N3,500 upto N12,000, for instance.

The beauty of Bluetooth wireless technology is that it frees not just your hands, it also allows your devices to talk to each other without cables, and across the range of up to 10 metres, at the least.

For the likes of Willy Okpe, the ball is now in his court to go wireless and remain connected.

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