Can Wi-Fi ever Replace Bluetooth?

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Bluetooth and wi-fi sound kind of same but technically they are not. However, there are similarities between both of these but still the numbers of differences are more. Both Bluetooth and Wi-fi are wireless connections and are meant to replace tedious wired connections. Bluetooth is an older invention whereas wi-fi is the latest invention if we look at the dates. Assuming that wi-fi is new technology and of course will be better than Bluetooth is completely wrong, Bluetooth is still better than wi-fi in many terms.
Before jumping directly into comparison and choosing a winner of future wireless technology let us gain some knowledge about both these networks.

Bluetooth belongs to the family of Wireless Personal Area Network (WPAN). According to the specification of Institute of electrical and electronics engineers (IEEE) it falls under the section 802.15.1(Discontinued now). Bluetooth was discovered to replace standard RS-32 cables which were being used for smaller data transmission between electronic devices of the 80s.

Bluetooth uses short wavelength ultra-high frequencies ranging between 2.40 to 2.485 GHz for transmission of data. Bluetooth was discovered by a group of companies called Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG). At the time of initial development, Nokia, Ericson, Toshiba, IBM, Intel were part of this group later Lenovo, apple and Microsoft also joined this group.

Every smartphone or a normal feature phone that we see today comes equipped with Bluetooth technology. We know Bluetooth as an option to share files between two devices. Bluetooth has many more features than just being a file sharing options. Bluetooth is used to send wireless audio signals to many portable devices like speakers and earphones. Bluetooth is not limited to send and receive normal signals but it can also be used to take advantage of the internet. Most of the android and iOS devices have an option of Bluetooth tethering, by using this option you can use the internet on the receiver device.

We all know wi-fi as a source to access the internet but actually this is more than just a source of internet. Wi-Fi is a member of the family called Wireless Local area network (WLAN). WLAN is a little broader type of network and is meant to cover a larger area as compared to Bluetooth. According to the specification of Institute of electrical and electronics engineers (IEEE) it falls under section 802.11. Wi-fi is also called the Wireless version of standard Ethernet.

Wi-Fi also uses radio waves at 2.4GHz and 5.0Ghz. It is difficult to announce a particular person or company behind the invention of Wi-Fi as it uses a number of technologies that were earlier discovered by different people. Apart from different technology in 2009 some companies paid a huge amount to purchase the patent of Wi-fi from the National Research Institute of Australia. Now the Wi-fi is developed by a non-profit organization called Wi-Fi alliance which consists of 375 leading technology companies.

Wi-fi was invented in 1997 later after the Bluetooth was invented and the data transfer rate at the time of the invention was 2Mbps which even a modern Bluetooth connection of today’s time can’ achieve. Most of the smartphones of modern times treat wi-fi as a basic feature. Users can a free Wi-fi connection at various public places to access the internet. Wi-Can also is used to share files between two computers without connecting them to the internet. A wi-fi hotspot will only have internet if the wi-Fi is created through a device called router. A router is connected to the standard optical fiber cable of ethernet having an active internet connection then this device creates a hotspot having internet connection.

Anyone who wants to connects to a particular wi-fi network needs ASIN Id of that network. Additionally, a wi-fi network can be protected by setting a password on it. Despite all the security features it is still not secure like traditional cable connections.

Why Bluetooth and Wi-fi cannot replace each other?
We discussed both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth in detail above now its time to discuss why we cannot rely on one of them for all the wireless connections. First let us compare both the wireless technologies to reach the final conclusion.

Data Transfer Speed.
Wi-fi may seem superior to Bluetooth in terms of coverage area and data transfer rate. The latest Wi-Fi technology is Wi-fi 6 which is capable to transfer data at a speed of 10Gbps. The latest version of Bluetooth is version 5.o which can only transfer data at a speed of 2.0Mbps. In term of speed Bluetooth not even stands closer to the Wi-Fi.

Coverage Area.
In terms of coverage the Bluetooth devices are divided into three classes. Most of the mobile phones have class 2 hardware that typically has a range of 10 meters however class 3 hardware can achieve a coverage distance of 100 meters. The standard Wi-Fi connection has a range of around 100 meters but this range is greatly influenced by an obstruction in its way. In completely open areas wi-fi can cover a distance of about 150 meters around it. The thing which worth to be noted is that the Bluetooth range is not affected by the obstruction in its ways which means the receiver and sender don’t need to be in the same line of sight whereas Wi-Fi range gets greatly reduced due to obstruction like a wall, concrete pillars and partition in its way. Alternatively, wi-fi range can be expanded by connecting multiple access points to each other.

Cost to install both the system in daily used devices is not going to affect you in any way because most of the manufacturers offer these features as a complimentary service. Generally, the Wi-Fi devices are more expensive than the standard Bluetooth accessories. You can usually buy a small Bluetooth enabled speaker as low as 500 Rupees but if you want to buy a wireless speaker having Wi-fi connectivity than you will need to spend at least 5000 Rupees.

Power Consumption.
This is the only thing that restricts the use of Wi-Fi in place of Bluetooth. Bluetooth is specially designed to consume a very small amount of power. Wi-fi is designed to keep data transfer speed in mind which demands high power in order to function well. According to various research performed from time to time it is observed that Wi-Fi consumes ten times more power as compared to Bluetooth.

So, is it a good idea to use Wi-Fi in place of Bluetooth?
Well, the short answer is No, at current timekeeping power demand in mind it will not be possible to use Wi-Fi in a portable device. A portable device needs to be lightweight in size, to meet the power demand of Wi-Fi a larger battery will need to be installed on devices that will make them bulkier.

Wi-Fi may be a great choice for the devices that have permanent power sources like car music systems, home theatres and smart TVs. Wireless audio equipment that uses Bluetooth to transmit data tends to play music of much lower quality. Using Wi-Fi on these devices may result in a great music experience.

We need to wait for the OEM to make more wi-fi compatible devices in the future. In future possibilities of Wi-Fi getting better and consume less power compared to the current version.

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