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New Bluetooth 5 with faster speeds, longer range
December 26, 2016, 12:54 pm

Over the next year, we are going to start seeing devices with Bluetooth connections that are faster and work over much longer ranges than what can currently be achieved.

That should all happen thanks to the changes in Bluetooth 5, a new standard that launched last week. Companies are now able to begin building and certifying devices that work with Bluetooth 5, the first round of which are expected to begin rolling out in the next two to six months and could include major products by the end of the year.

The details of Bluetooth 5 largely have not changed since they were first announced earlier this year. When in its common low-energy format, Bluetooth connections should be able to reach up to twice the speeds and up to four times the distance of what they can today, according to Bluetooth SIG (Special Interest Group) that oversees the standard.

Even though Bluetooth 5 lunched last week, it may be several years before we really start to notice any difference it makes. First, device manufacturers have to adopt the new standard; and then, you actually have to go and buy those devices. Until you are using a smartphone, laptop, fitness tracker, and so on that take advantage of Bluetooth 5’s changes, any improvements may be slight.

The new spec is also supposed to make Bluetooth beacons — the small radios that let stores and stadiums push ads and other targeted info to your phones — work more efficiently. And it is supposed to let Bluetooth’s wireless signal adapt on the fly to avoid Wi-Fi and LTE, steering clear of congested airwaves as a way to help all of a device’s wireless connections maintain their performance.

Chuck Sabin, Bluetooth SIG’s director of business strategy, says the goal of these improvements is to “increase the overall quality of the connections and the interoperability of these connections,” making Bluetooth a better option for the growing number of Internet of Things devices trying to fill up your home. The reliability of Bluetooth connections has been another trouble point over the years, and it sounds like this update is doing at least some amount of work to correct for that. Though Bluetooth devices may drain more power by broadcasting over a longer range, he says, that should be made up for by their faster speeds, allowing radios to be on for shorter periods of time.

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