Technology | Media | Telecommunications

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Bluetooth Finally Gains Momentum in Asia

What's old is now new again, somewhere in the world of wireless possibilities. While Bluetooth has been in the market for almost a decade, it has not proliferated widely in Asia. In terms of consumer awareness, this region still lags behind others.

However, the picture is changing, especially when it comes to mobile phone handsets, and a new market study from ABI Research indicates that Bluetooth-enabled equipment shipments in Asia will reach 982 million units in 2013, representing a compound annual growth rate of 39 percent over 2006 shipments.

"One of biggest barriers for consumers is cost," says senior analyst Andy Bae. "Consumers in Asia believe that the Bluetooth headset is comparatively expensive -- they also seem to underestimate its voice quality."

Bluetooth has achieved its greatest penetration to date in mobile handsets, as mobile operators have demanded continuous support from manufacturers. In South Korea, the penetration rate in mobile phones reached 51 percent in 2007.

Bae adds, "Streaming music services over mobile networks, such as Japan's Chaku Uta, will be key drivers of Bluetooth inclusion in cellular handsets."

The positive uptake in the cellular sector also produces a ripple effect for other devices. With increasing consumer awareness, notebook manufacturers now consider Bluetooth to be an ideal medium for exchanging files and data with peripherals and devices such as printers and digital cameras.

Bluetooth will still face challenges from competing short-range wireless technologies. In Asia, there are home-grown technologies to deliver music, voice, and video within a small radius. These include Binary CDMA, Wireless USB, and GiGa-Fi, which are all discussed in the ABI Research study, in order to compare their market positions and technical features with Bluetooth.

"Those technologies may have superior transmission capabilities," notes Bae. "But there is no other technology as well suited as Bluetooth for the transmission of audio services -- nor does any other technology maintain the same price points or the same well-established market position."