This article is about a wireless technology standard. For the medieval king of Denmark, see Harald Bluetooth.
Developed by Bluetooth Special Interest Group
Industry Mobile personal area networks
Compatible hardware Mobile phones, personal computers, gaming consoles[1]
Physical range Typically less than 10 m, up to 100 m[2][3]

Bluetooth is a wireless technology standard for exchanging data over short distances (using short-wavelength UHF radio waves in the ISM band from 2.4 to 2.485 GHz[4]) from fixed and mobile devices, and building personal area networks (PANs). Invented by telecom vendor Ericsson in 1994,[5] it was originally conceived as a wireless alternative to RS-232 data cables. It can connect several devices, overcoming problems of synchronization.

Bluetooth is managed by the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG), which has more than 25,000 member companies in the areas of telecommunication, computing, networking, and consumer electronics.[6] The IEEE standardized Bluetooth as IEEE 802.15.1, but no longer maintains the standard. The Bluetooth SIG oversees development of the specification, manages the qualification program, and protects the trademarks.[7] A manufacturer must meet Bluetooth SIG standards to market it as a Bluetooth device.[8] A network of patents apply to the technology, which are licensed to individual qualifying devices.


The development of the "short-link" radio technology, later named Bluetooth, was initiated in 1989 by Dr. Nils Rydbeck, CTO at Ericsson Mobile in Lund, Sweden, and by Dr. Johan Ullman. The purpose was to develop wireless headsets, according to two inventions by Johan Ullman, SE 8902098-6, issued 1989-06-12  and SE 9202239, issued 1992-07-24 . Nils Rydbeck tasked Tord Wingren with specifying and Jaap Haartsen and Sven Mattisson with developing. Both were working for Ericsson in Lund.[9] The specification is based on frequency-hopping spread spectrum technology.

Name and logo

Etymology of the name

The name "Bluetooth" is an Anglicised version of the Scandinavian Blåtand/Blåtann (Old Norse blátǫnn), the epithet of the tenth-century king Harald Bluetooth who united dissonant Danish tribes into a single kingdom and, according to legend, introduced Christianity as well. The idea of this name was proposed in 1997 by Jim Kardach who developed a system that would allow mobile phones to communicate with computers. At the time of this proposal he was reading Frans G. Bengtsson's historical novel The Long Ships about Vikings and King Harald Bluetooth.[10][11] The implication is that Bluetooth does the same with communications protocols, uniting them into one universal standard.[12]


The Bluetooth logo is a bind rune merging the Younger Futhark runes  (Hagall) (ᚼ) and  (Bjarkan) (ᛒ), Harald's initials.[13] [14]


Bluetooth operates at frequencies between 2402 and 2480 MHz, or 2400 and 2483.5 MHz including guard bands 2 MHz wide at the bottom end and 3.5 MHz wide at the top.[15] This is in the globally unlicensed (but not unregulated) Industrial, Scientific and Medical (ISM) 2.4 GHz short-range radio frequency band. Bluetooth uses a radio technology called frequency-hopping spread spectrum. Bluetooth divides transmitted data into packets, and transmits each packet on one of 79 designated Bluetooth channels. Each channel has a bandwidth of 1 MHz. It usually performs 800 hops per second, with Adaptive Frequency-Hopping (AFH) enabled.[15] Bluetooth low energy uses 2 MHz spacing, which accommodates 40 channels.

Originally, Gaussian frequency-shift keying (GFSK) modulation was the only modulation scheme available. Since the introduction of Bluetooth 2.0+EDR, π/4-DQPSK (Differential Quadrature Phase Shift Keying) and 8DPSK modulation may also be used between compatible devices. Devices functioning with GFSK are said to be operating in basic rate (BR) mode where an instantaneous data rate of 1 Mbit/s is possible. The term Enhanced Data Rate (EDR) is used to describe π/4-DPSK and 8DPSK schemes, each giving 2 and 3 Mbit/s respectively. The combination of these (BR and EDR) modes in Bluetooth radio technology is classified as a "BR/EDR radio".

Bluetooth is a packet-based protocol with a master-slave structure. One master may communicate with up to seven slaves in a piconet. All devices share the master's clock. Packet exchange is based on the basic clock, defined by the master, which ticks at 312.5 µs intervals. Two clock ticks make up a slot of 625 µs, and two slots make up a slot pair of 1250 µs. In the simple case of single-slot packets the master transmits in even slots and receives in odd slots. The slave, conversely, receives in even slots and transmits in odd slots. Packets may be 1, 3 or 5 slots long, but in all cases the master's transmission begins in even slots and the slave's in odd slots.

The above is valid for "classic" BT. Bluetooth Low Energy, introduced in the 4.0 specification, uses the same spectrum but somewhat differently; see Bluetooth low energy#Radio interface.

Communication and connection

A master Bluetooth device can communicate with a maximum of seven devices in a piconet (an ad-hoc computer network using Bluetooth technology), though not all devices reach this maximum. The devices can switch roles, by agreement, and the slave can become the master (for example, a headset initiating a connection to a phone necessarily begins as master—as initiator of the connection—but may subsequently operate as slave).

The Bluetooth Core Specification provides for the connection of two or more piconets to form a scatternet, in which certain devices simultaneously play the master role in one piconet and the slave role in another.

At any given time, data can be transferred between the master and one other device (except for the little-used broadcast mode.) The master chooses which slave device to address; typically, it switches rapidly from one device to another in a round-robin fashion. Since it is the master that chooses which slave to address, whereas a slave is (in theory) supposed to listen in each receive slot, being a master is a lighter burden than being a slave. Being a master of seven slaves is possible; being a slave of more than one master is only possible on more advanced devices which conform with Bluetooth 4.1 onwards.[16][17] The specification is vague as to required behavior in scatternets.


Class Max. permitted power Typ. range[3]
(mW) (dBm)
1 100 20 ~100
2 2.5 4 ~10
3 1 0 ~1
4 0.5 -3 ~0.5

Bluetooth is a standard wire-replacement communications protocol primarily designed for low-power consumption, with a short range based on low-cost transceiver microchips in each device.[18] Because the devices use a radio (broadcast) communications system, they do not have to be in visual line of sight of each other; however, a quasi optical wireless path must be viable.[6] Range is power-class-dependent, but effective ranges vary in practice. See the table on the right.

Officially Class 3 radios have a range of up to 1 metre (3 ft), Class 2, most commonly found in mobile devices, 10 metres (33 ft), and Class 1, primarily for industrial use cases,100 metres (300 ft).[3] Bluetooth Marketing qualifies that Class 1 range is in most cases 20–30 metres (66–98 ft), and Class 2 range 5–10 metres (16–33 ft).[2]

Bluetooth version Maximum speed Maximum range
3.0 25 Mbit/s
4.0 25 Mbit/s 200 feet (60 m)
5 50 Mbit/s 800 feet (240 m)

The effective range varies due to propagation conditions, material coverage, production sample variations, antenna configurations and battery conditions. Most Bluetooth applications are for indoor conditions, where attenuation of walls and signal fading due to signal reflections make the range far lower than specified line-of-sight ranges of the Bluetooth products. Most Bluetooth applications are battery powered Class 2 devices, with little difference in range whether the other end of the link is a Class 1 or Class 2 device as the lower powered device tends to set the range limit. In some cases the effective range of the data link can be extended when a Class 2 device is connecting to a Class 1 transceiver with both higher sensitivity and transmission power than a typical Class 2 device.[19] Mostly, however, the Class 1 devices have a similar sensitivity to Class 2 devices. Connecting two Class 1 devices with both high sensitivity and high power can allow ranges far in excess of the typical 100m, depending on the throughput required by the application. Some such devices allow open field ranges of up to 1 km and beyond between two similar devices without exceeding legal emission limits.[20][21][22]

The Bluetooth Core Specification mandates a range of not less than 10 metres (33 ft), but there is no upper limit on actual range. Manufacturers' implementations can be tuned to provide the range needed for each case.[3]

Bluetooth profiles

Main article: Bluetooth profile

To use Bluetooth wireless technology, a device must be able to interpret certain Bluetooth profiles, which are definitions of possible applications and specify general behaviours that Bluetooth-enabled devices use to communicate with other Bluetooth devices. These profiles include settings to parametrize and to control the communication from start. Adherence to profiles saves the time for transmitting the parameters anew before the bi-directional link becomes effective. There are a wide range of Bluetooth profiles that describe many different types of applications or use cases for devices.[23][24]

List of applications

A typical Bluetooth mobile phone headset.

Bluetooth vs. Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11)

Bluetooth and Wi-Fi (the brand name for products using IEEE 802.11 standards) have some similar applications: setting up networks, printing, or transferring files. Wi-Fi is intended as a replacement for high speed cabling for general local area network access in work areas or home. This category of applications is sometimes called wireless local area networks (WLAN). Bluetooth was intended for portable equipment and its applications. The category of applications is outlined as the wireless personal area network (WPAN). Bluetooth is a replacement for cabling in a variety of personally carried applications in any setting, and also works for fixed location applications such as smart energy functionality in the home (thermostats, etc.).

Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are to some extent complementary in their applications and usage. Wi-Fi is usually access point-centered, with an asymmetrical client-server connection with all traffic routed through the access point, while Bluetooth is usually symmetrical, between two Bluetooth devices. Bluetooth serves well in simple applications where two devices need to connect with minimal configuration like a button press, as in headsets and remote controls, while Wi-Fi suits better in applications where some degree of client configuration is possible and high speeds are required, especially for network access through an access node. However, Bluetooth access points do exist and ad-hoc connections are possible with Wi-Fi though not as simply as with Bluetooth. Wi-Fi Direct was recently developed to add a more Bluetooth-like ad-hoc functionality to Wi-Fi.

Bluetooth vs. ANT+

Bluetooth Smart and ANT+ are similar wireless technologies that allow information to pass between electronic devices.
Bluetooth devices will talk to other electronics connected to the Bluetooth network – and the same goes for ANT+ devices.
Of course there are advantages and disadvantages of each protocol that must be considered when choosing.


A Bluetooth USB dongle with a 100 m range.

Bluetooth exists in many products, such as telephones, tablets, media players, robotics systems, handheld, laptops and console gaming equipment, and some high definition headsets, modems, and watches.[36] The technology is useful when transferring information between two or more devices that are near each other in low-bandwidth situations. Bluetooth is commonly used to transfer sound data with telephones (i.e., with a Bluetooth headset) or byte data with hand-held computers (transferring files).

Bluetooth protocols simplify the discovery and setup of services between devices.[37] Bluetooth devices can advertise all of the services they provide.[38] This makes using services easier, because more of the security, network address and permission configuration can be automated than with many other network types.[37]

Computer requirements

A typical Bluetooth USB dongle.
An internal notebook Bluetooth card (14×36×4 mm).

A personal computer that does not have embedded Bluetooth can use a Bluetooth adapter that enables the PC to communicate with Bluetooth devices. While some desktop computers and most recent laptops come with a built-in Bluetooth radio, others require an external adapter, typically in the form of a small USB "dongle."

Unlike its predecessor, IrDA, which requires a separate adapter for each device, Bluetooth lets multiple devices communicate with a computer over a single adapter.[39]

Operating system implementation

For more details on this topic, see Bluetooth stack.

For Microsoft platforms, Windows XP Service Pack 2 and SP3 releases work natively with Bluetooth v1.1, v2.0 and v2.0+EDR.[40] Previous versions required users to install their Bluetooth adapter's own drivers, which were not directly supported by Microsoft.[41] Microsoft's own Bluetooth dongles (packaged with their Bluetooth computer devices) have no external drivers and thus require at least Windows XP Service Pack 2. Windows Vista RTM/SP1 with the Feature Pack for Wireless or Windows Vista SP2 work with Bluetooth v2.1+EDR.[40] Windows 7 works with Bluetooth v2.1+EDR and Extended Inquiry Response (EIR).[40]

The Windows XP and Windows Vista/Windows 7 Bluetooth stacks support the following Bluetooth profiles natively: PAN, SPP, DUN, HID, HCRP. The Windows XP stack can be replaced by a third party stack that supports more profiles or newer Bluetooth versions. The Windows Vista/Windows 7 Bluetooth stack supports vendor-supplied additional profiles without requiring that the Microsoft stack be replaced.[40]

Apple products have worked with Bluetooth since Mac OS X v10.2, which was released in 2002.[42]

Linux has two popular Bluetooth stacks, BlueZ and Affix. The BlueZ stack is included with most Linux kernels and was originally developed by Qualcomm.[43] The Affix stack was developed by Nokia.

FreeBSD features Bluetooth since its v5.0 release.

NetBSD features Bluetooth since its v4.0 release. Its Bluetooth stack has been ported to OpenBSD as well.

Specifications and features

The specifications were formalized by the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG). The SIG was formally announced on 20 May 1998. Today it has a membership of over 30,000 companies worldwide.[44] It was established by Ericsson, IBM, Intel, Toshiba and Nokia, and later joined by many other companies.

All versions of the Bluetooth standards support downward compatibility. That lets the latest standard cover all older versions.

The Bluetooth Core Specification Working Group (CSWG) produces mainly 4 kinds of specifications

Bluetooth 1.0 and 1.0B

Versions 1.0 and 1.0B had many problems and manufacturers had difficulty making their products interoperable. Versions 1.0 and 1.0B also included mandatory Bluetooth hardware device address (BD_ADDR) transmission in the Connecting process (rendering anonymity impossible at the protocol level), which was a major setback for certain services planned for use in Bluetooth environments.

Bluetooth 1.1

Bluetooth 1.2

Major enhancements include the following:

Bluetooth 2.0 + EDR

This version of the Bluetooth Core Specification was released in 2004. The main difference is the introduction of an Enhanced Data Rate (EDR) for faster data transfer. The nominal rate of EDR is about 3 Mbit/s, although the practical data transfer rate is 2.1 Mbit/s.[46] EDR uses a combination of GFSK and Phase Shift Keying modulation (PSK) with two variants, π/4-DQPSK and 8DPSK.[48] EDR can provide a lower power consumption through a reduced duty cycle.

The specification is published as Bluetooth v2.0 + EDR, which implies that EDR is an optional feature. Aside from EDR, the v2.0 specification contains other minor improvements, and products may claim compliance to "Bluetooth v2.0" without supporting the higher data rate. At least one commercial device states "Bluetooth v2.0 without EDR" on its data sheet.[49]

Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR

Bluetooth Core Specification Version 2.1 + EDR was adopted by the Bluetooth SIG on 26 July 2007.[48]

The headline feature of v2.1 is secure simple pairing (SSP): this improves the pairing experience for Bluetooth devices, while increasing the use and strength of security. See the section on Pairing below for more details.[50]

Version 2.1 allows various other improvements, including "Extended inquiry response" (EIR), which provides more information during the inquiry procedure to allow better filtering of devices before connection; and sniff subrating, which reduces the power consumption in low-power mode.

Bluetooth 3.0 + HS

Version 3.0 + HS of the Bluetooth Core Specification[48] was adopted by the Bluetooth SIG on 21 April 2009. Bluetooth v3.0 + HS provides theoretical data transfer speeds of up to 24 Mbit/s, though not over the Bluetooth link itself. Instead, the Bluetooth link is used for negotiation and establishment, and the high data rate traffic is carried over a colocated 802.11 link.

The main new feature is AMP (Alternative MAC/PHY), the addition of 802.11 as a high speed transport. The High-Speed part of the specification is not mandatory, and hence only devices that display the "+HS" logo actually support Bluetooth over 802.11 high-speed data transfer. A Bluetooth v3.0 device without the "+HS" suffix is only required to support features introduced in Core Specification Version 3.0[51] or earlier Core Specification Addendum 1.[52]

L2CAP Enhanced modes
Enhanced Retransmission Mode (ERTM) implements reliable L2CAP channel, while Streaming Mode (SM) implements unreliable channel with no retransmission or flow control. Introduced in Core Specification Addendum 1.
Alternative MAC/PHY
Enables the use of alternative MAC and PHYs for transporting Bluetooth profile data. The Bluetooth radio is still used for device discovery, initial connection and profile configuration. However, when large quantities of data must be sent, the high speed alternative MAC PHY 802.11 (typically associated with Wi-Fi) transports the data. This means that Bluetooth uses proven low power connection models when the system is idle, and the faster radio when it must send large quantities of data. AMP links require enhanced L2CAP modes.
Unicast Connectionless Data
Permits sending service data without establishing an explicit L2CAP channel. It is intended for use by applications that require low latency between user action and reconnection/transmission of data. This is only appropriate for small amounts of data.
Enhanced Power Control
Updates the power control feature to remove the open loop power control, and also to clarify ambiguities in power control introduced by the new modulation schemes added for EDR. Enhanced power control removes the ambiguities by specifying the behaviour that is expected. The feature also adds closed loop power control, meaning RSSI filtering can start as the response is received. Additionally, a "go straight to maximum power" request has been introduced. This is expected to deal with the headset link loss issue typically observed when a user puts their phone into a pocket on the opposite side to the headset.


The high speed (AMP) feature of Bluetooth v3.0 was originally intended for UWB, but the WiMedia Alliance, the body responsible for the flavor of UWB intended for Bluetooth, announced in March 2009 that it was disbanding, and ultimately UWB was omitted from the Core v3.0 specification.[53]

On 16 March 2009, the WiMedia Alliance announced it was entering into technology transfer agreements for the WiMedia Ultra-wideband (UWB) specifications. WiMedia has transferred all current and future specifications, including work on future high speed and power optimized implementations, to the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG), Wireless USB Promoter Group and the USB Implementers Forum. After successful completion of the technology transfer, marketing, and related administrative items, the WiMedia Alliance ceased operations.[54][55][56][57][58][59]

In October 2009 the Bluetooth Special Interest Group suspended development of UWB as part of the alternative MAC/PHY, Bluetooth v3.0 + HS solution. A small, but significant, number of former WiMedia members had not and would not sign up to the necessary agreements for the IP transfer. The Bluetooth SIG is now in the process of evaluating other options for its longer term roadmap.[60][61][62]

Bluetooth 4.0 + LE

The Bluetooth SIG completed the Bluetooth Core Specification version 4.0 (called Bluetooth Smart) and has been adopted as of 30 June 2010. It includes Classic Bluetooth, Bluetooth high speed and Bluetooth low energy protocols. Bluetooth high speed is based on Wi-Fi, and Classic Bluetooth consists of legacy Bluetooth protocols.

Bluetooth low energy, previously known as Wibree,[63] is a subset of Bluetooth v4.0 with an entirely new protocol stack for rapid build-up of simple links. As an alternative to the Bluetooth standard protocols that were introduced in Bluetooth v1.0 to v3.0, it is aimed at very low power applications running off a coin cell. Chip designs allow for two types of implementation, dual-mode, single-mode and enhanced past versions.[64] The provisional names Wibree and Bluetooth ULP (Ultra Low Power) were abandoned and the BLE name was used for a while. In late 2011, new logos "Bluetooth Smart Ready" for hosts and "Bluetooth Smart" for sensors were introduced as the general-public face of BLE.[65]

Cost-reduced single-mode chips, which enable highly integrated and compact devices, feature a lightweight Link Layer providing ultra-low power idle mode operation, simple device discovery, and reliable point-to-multipoint data transfer with advanced power-save and secure encrypted connections at the lowest possible cost.

General improvements in version 4.0 include the changes necessary to facilitate BLE modes, as well the Generic Attribute Profile (GATT) and Security Manager (SM) services with AES Encryption.

Core Specification Addendum 2 was unveiled in December 2011; it contains improvements to the audio Host Controller Interface and to the High Speed (802.11) Protocol Adaptation Layer.

Core Specification Addendum 3 revision 2 has an adoption date of 24 July 2012.

Core Specification Addendum 4 has an adoption date of 12 February 2013.

Bluetooth 4.1

The Bluetooth SIG announced formal adoption of the Bluetooth v4.1 specification on 4 December 2013. This specification is an incremental software update to Bluetooth Specification v4.0, and not a hardware update. The update incorporates Bluetooth Core Specification Addenda (CSA 1, 2, 3 & 4) and adds new features that improve consumer usability. These include increased co-existence support for LTE, bulk data exchange rates—and aid developer innovation by allowing devices to support multiple roles simultaneously.[73]

New features of this specification include:

Notice that some features were already available in a Core Specification Addendum (CSA) before the release of v4.1.

Bluetooth 4.2

Bluetooth v4.2 was released on December 2, 2014. It Introduces some key features for IoT. Some features, such as Data Length Extension, require a hardware update.[75] But some older Bluetooth hardware may receive some Bluetooth v4.2 features, such as privacy updates via firmware.[76]

The major areas of improvement are:

Bluetooth 5

The Bluetooth SIG officially unveiled Bluetooth 5 on the 16th of June 2016 during a media event in London. The new features are mainly focused on Internet of Things emerging technology. The release of products is scheduled for late 2016 to early 2017.

One change on the marketing side is that they dropped the point number, so it is now just called "Bluetooth 5" (and not Bluetooth 5.0 or 5.0 LE like for Bluetooth 4.0), as this decision was made allegedly to “simplifying marketing, and communicating user benefits more effectively”.[77]

On the technical side, Bluetooth 5 has quadruple the range, double the speed, and provides an eight-fold increase in data broadcasting capacity of low energy Bluetooth transmissions compared to Bluetooth 4.x, which could be important for IoT applications where nodes are connected throughout a whole house. In addition it adds functionality for connectionless services like location-relevant information and navigation[78][79] of low energy Bluetooth connections.[80][81][82]

Technical information

Bluetooth protocol stack

Bluetooth Protocol Stack

Bluetooth is defined as a layer protocol architecture consisting of core protocols, cable replacement protocols, telephony control protocols, and adopted protocols.[83] Mandatory protocols for all Bluetooth stacks are: LMP, L2CAP and SDP. In addition, devices that communicate with Bluetooth almost universally can use these protocols: HCI and RFCOMM.


The Link Management Protocol (LMP) is used for set-up and control of the radio link between two devices. Implemented on the controller.


The Logical Link Control and Adaptation Protocol (L2CAP) is used to multiplex multiple logical connections between two devices using different higher level protocols. Provides segmentation and reassembly of on-air packets.

In Basic mode, L2CAP provides packets with a payload configurable up to 64 kB, with 672 bytes as the default MTU, and 48 bytes as the minimum mandatory supported MTU.

In Retransmission and Flow Control modes, L2CAP can be configured either for isochronous data or reliable data per channel by performing retransmissions and CRC checks.

Bluetooth Core Specification Addendum 1 adds two additional L2CAP modes to the core specification. These modes effectively deprecate original Retransmission and Flow Control modes:

Reliability in any of these modes is optionally and/or additionally guaranteed by the lower layer Bluetooth BDR/EDR air interface by configuring the number of retransmissions and flush timeout (time after which the radio flushes packets). In-order sequencing is guaranteed by the lower layer.

Only L2CAP channels configured in ERTM or SM may be operated over AMP logical links.


The Service Discovery Protocol (SDP) allows a device to discover services offered by other devices, and their associated parameters. For example, when you use a mobile phone with a Bluetooth headset, the phone uses SDP to determine which Bluetooth profiles the headset can use (Headset Profile, Hands Free Profile, Advanced Audio Distribution Profile (A2DP) etc.) and the protocol multiplexer settings needed for the phone to connect to the headset using each of them. Each service is identified by a Universally Unique Identifier (UUID), with official services (Bluetooth profiles) assigned a short form UUID (16 bits rather than the full 128).


Radio Frequency Communications (RFCOMM) is a cable replacement protocol used to generate a virtual serial data stream. RFCOMM provides for binary data transport and emulates EIA-232 (formerly RS-232) control signals over the Bluetooth baseband layer, i.e. it is a serial port emulation.

RFCOMM provides a simple reliable data stream to the user, similar to TCP. It is used directly by many telephony related profiles as a carrier for AT commands, as well as being a transport layer for OBEX over Bluetooth.

Many Bluetooth applications use RFCOMM because of its widespread support and publicly available API on most operating systems. Additionally, applications that used a serial port to communicate can be quickly ported to use RFCOMM.


The Bluetooth Network Encapsulation Protocol (BNEP) is used for transferring another protocol stack's data via an L2CAP channel. Its main purpose is the transmission of IP packets in the Personal Area Networking Profile. BNEP performs a similar function to SNAP in Wireless LAN.


The Audio/Video Control Transport Protocol (AVCTP) is used by the remote control profile to transfer AV/C commands over an L2CAP channel. The music control buttons on a stereo headset use this protocol to control the music player.


The Audio/Video Distribution Transport Protocol (AVDTP) is used by the advanced audio distribution profile to stream music to stereo headsets over an L2CAP channel intended for video distribution profile in the Bluetooth transmission.


The Telephony Control Protocol – Binary (TCS BIN) is the bit-oriented protocol that defines the call control signaling for the establishment of voice and data calls between Bluetooth devices. Additionally, "TCS BIN defines mobility management procedures for handling groups of Bluetooth TCS devices."

TCS-BIN is only used by the cordless telephony profile, which failed to attract implementers. As such it is only of historical interest.

Adopted protocols

Adopted protocols are defined by other standards-making organizations and incorporated into Bluetooth’s protocol stack, allowing Bluetooth to code protocols only when necessary. The adopted protocols include:

Baseband error correction

Depending on packet type, individual packets may be protected by error correction, either 1/3 rate forward error correction (FEC) or 2/3 rate. In addition, packets with CRC will be retransmitted until acknowledged by automatic repeat request (ARQ).

Setting up connections

Any Bluetooth device in discoverable mode transmits the following information on demand:

Any device may perform an inquiry to find other devices to connect to, and any device can be configured to respond to such inquiries. However, if the device trying to connect knows the address of the device, it always responds to direct connection requests and transmits the information shown in the list above if requested. Use of a device's services may require pairing or acceptance by its owner, but the connection itself can be initiated by any device and held until it goes out of range. Some devices can be connected to only one device at a time, and connecting to them prevents them from connecting to other devices and appearing in inquiries until they disconnect from the other device.

Every device has a unique 48-bit address. However, these addresses are generally not shown in inquiries. Instead, friendly Bluetooth names are used, which can be set by the user. This name appears when another user scans for devices and in lists of paired devices.

Most cellular phones have the Bluetooth name set to the manufacturer and model of the phone by default. Most cellular phones and laptops show only the Bluetooth names and special programs are required to get additional information about remote devices. This can be confusing as, for example, there could be several cellular phones in range named T610 (see Bluejacking).

Pairing and bonding


Many services offered over Bluetooth can expose private data or let a connecting party control the Bluetooth device. Security reasons make it necessary to recognize specific devices, and thus enable control over which devices can connect to a given Bluetooth device. At the same time, it is useful for Bluetooth devices to be able to establish a connection without user intervention (for example, as soon as in range).

To resolve this conflict, Bluetooth uses a process called bonding, and a bond is generated through a process called pairing. The pairing process is triggered either by a specific request from a user to generate a bond (for example, the user explicitly requests to "Add a Bluetooth device"), or it is triggered automatically when connecting to a service where (for the first time) the identity of a device is required for security purposes. These two cases are referred to as dedicated bonding and general bonding respectively.

Pairing often involves some level of user interaction. This user interaction confirms the identity of the devices. When pairing successfully completes, a bond forms between the two devices, enabling those two devices to connect to each other in the future without repeating the pairing process to confirm device identities. When desired, the user can remove the bonding relationship.


During pairing, the two devices establish a relationship by creating a shared secret known as a link key. If both devices store the same link key, they are said to be paired or bonded. A device that wants to communicate only with a bonded device can cryptographically authenticate the identity of the other device, ensuring it is the same device it previously paired with. Once a link key is generated, an authenticated Asynchronous Connection-Less (ACL) link between the devices may be encrypted to protect exchanged data against eavesdropping. Users can delete link keys from either device, which removes the bond between the devices—so it is possible for one device to have a stored link key for a device it is no longer paired with.

Bluetooth services generally require either encryption or authentication and as such require pairing before they let a remote device connect. Some services, such as the Object Push Profile, elect not to explicitly require authentication or encryption so that pairing does not interfere with the user experience associated with the service use-cases.

Pairing mechanisms

Pairing mechanisms changed significantly with the introduction of Secure Simple Pairing in Bluetooth v2.1. The following summarizes the pairing mechanisms:

SSP is considered simple for the following reasons:

Security concerns

Prior to Bluetooth v2.1, encryption is not required and can be turned off at any time. Moreover, the encryption key is only good for approximately 23.5 hours; using a single encryption key longer than this time allows simple XOR attacks to retrieve the encryption key.

Bluetooth v2.1 addresses this in the following ways:

Link keys may be stored on the device file system, not on the Bluetooth chip itself. Many Bluetooth chip manufacturers let link keys be stored on the device—however, if the device is removable, this means that the link key moves with the device.



Bluetooth implements confidentiality, authentication and key derivation with custom algorithms based on the SAFER+ block cipher. Bluetooth key generation is generally based on a Bluetooth PIN, which must be entered into both devices. This procedure might be modified if one of the devices has a fixed PIN (e.g., for headsets or similar devices with a restricted user interface). During pairing, an initialization key or master key is generated, using the E22 algorithm.[84] The E0 stream cipher is used for encrypting packets, granting confidentiality, and is based on a shared cryptographic secret, namely a previously generated link key or master key. Those keys, used for subsequent encryption of data sent via the air interface, rely on the Bluetooth PIN, which has been entered into one or both devices.

An overview of Bluetooth vulnerabilities exploits was published in 2007 by Andreas Becker.[85]

In September 2008, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) published a Guide to Bluetooth Security as a reference for organizations. It describes Bluetooth security capabilities and how to secure Bluetooth technologies effectively. While Bluetooth has its benefits, it is susceptible to denial-of-service attacks, eavesdropping, man-in-the-middle attacks, message modification, and resource misappropriation. Users and organizations must evaluate their acceptable level of risk and incorporate security into the lifecycle of Bluetooth devices. To help mitigate risks, included in the NIST document are security checklists with guidelines and recommendations for creating and maintaining secure Bluetooth piconets, headsets, and smart card readers.[86]

Bluetooth v2.1 – finalized in 2007 with consumer devices first appearing in 2009 – makes significant changes to Bluetooth's security, including pairing. See the pairing mechanisms section for more about these changes.


Main article: Bluejacking

Bluejacking is the sending of either a picture or a message from one user to an unsuspecting user through Bluetooth wireless technology. Common applications include short messages, e.g., "You've just been bluejacked!".[87] Bluejacking does not involve the removal or alteration of any data from the device. Bluejacking can also involve taking control of a mobile device wirelessly and phoning a premium rate line, owned by the bluejacker. Security advances have alleviated this issue.

History of security concerns


In 2001, Jakobsson and Wetzel from Bell Laboratories discovered flaws in the Bluetooth pairing protocol and also pointed to vulnerabilities in the encryption scheme.[88] In 2003, Ben and Adam Laurie from A.L. Digital Ltd. discovered that serious flaws in some poor implementations of Bluetooth security may lead to disclosure of personal data.[89] In a subsequent experiment, Martin Herfurt from the was able to do a field-trial at the CeBIT fairgrounds, showing the importance of the problem to the world. A new attack called BlueBug was used for this experiment.[90] In 2004 the first purported virus using Bluetooth to spread itself among mobile phones appeared on the Symbian OS.[91] The virus was first described by Kaspersky Lab and requires users to confirm the installation of unknown software before it can propagate. The virus was written as a proof-of-concept by a group of virus writers known as "29A" and sent to anti-virus groups. Thus, it should be regarded as a potential (but not real) security threat to Bluetooth technology or Symbian OS since the virus has never spread outside of this system. In August 2004, a world-record-setting experiment (see also Bluetooth sniping) showed that the range of Class 2 Bluetooth radios could be extended to 1.78 km (1.11 mi) with directional antennas and signal amplifiers.[92] This poses a potential security threat because it enables attackers to access vulnerable Bluetooth devices from a distance beyond expectation. The attacker must also be able to receive information from the victim to set up a connection. No attack can be made against a Bluetooth device unless the attacker knows its Bluetooth address and which channels to transmit on, although these can be deduced within a few minutes if the device is in use.[93]


In January 2005, a mobile malware worm known as Lasco. The worm began targeting mobile phones using Symbian OS (Series 60 platform) using Bluetooth enabled devices to replicate itself and spread to other devices. The worm is self-installing and begins once the mobile user approves the transfer of the file (velasco.sis) from another device. Once installed, the worm begins looking for other Bluetooth enabled devices to infect. Additionally, the worm infects other .SIS files on the device, allowing replication to another device through use of removable media (Secure Digital, Compact Flash, etc.). The worm can render the mobile device unstable.[94]

In April 2005, Cambridge University security researchers published results of their actual implementation of passive attacks against the PIN-based pairing between commercial Bluetooth devices. They confirmed that attacks are practicably fast, and the Bluetooth symmetric key establishment method is vulnerable. To rectify this vulnerability, they designed an implementation that showed that stronger, asymmetric key establishment is feasible for certain classes of devices, such as mobile phones.[95]

In June 2005, Yaniv Shaked[96] and Avishai Wool[97] published a paper describing both passive and active methods for obtaining the PIN for a Bluetooth link. The passive attack allows a suitably equipped attacker to eavesdrop on communications and spoof, if the attacker was present at the time of initial pairing. The active method makes use of a specially constructed message that must be inserted at a specific point in the protocol, to make the master and slave repeat the pairing process. After that, the first method can be used to crack the PIN. This attack's major weakness is that it requires the user of the devices under attack to re-enter the PIN during the attack when the device prompts them to. Also, this active attack probably requires custom hardware, since most commercially available Bluetooth devices are not capable of the timing necessary.[98]

In August 2005, police in Cambridgeshire, England, issued warnings about thieves using Bluetooth enabled phones to track other devices left in cars. Police are advising users to ensure that any mobile networking connections are de-activated if laptops and other devices are left in this way.[99]


In April 2006, researchers from Secure Network and F-Secure published a report that warns of the large number of devices left in a visible state, and issued statistics on the spread of various Bluetooth services and the ease of spread of an eventual Bluetooth worm.[100]


In October 2007, at the Luxemburgish Security Conference, Kevin Finistere and Thierry Zoller demonstrated and released a remote root shell via Bluetooth on Mac OS X v10.3.9 and v10.4. They also demonstrated the first Bluetooth PIN and Linkkeys cracker, which is based on the research of Wool and Shaked.


Options to mitigate against Bluetooth security attacks include:[101]

Health concerns

Bluetooth uses the microwave radio frequency spectrum in the 2.402 GHz to 2.480 GHz range,[102] which is harmless non-ionizing radiation that cannot cause cancer. Maximum power output from a Bluetooth radio is 100 mW for class 1, 2.5 mW for class 2, and 1 mW for class 3 devices. Even the maximum power output of class 1 is a lower level than the lowest powered mobile phones.[103] UMTS & W-CDMA outputs 250 mW, GSM1800/1900 outputs 1000 mW, and GSM850/900 outputs 2000 mW.

Interference caused by USB 3.0

USB 3.0 devices, ports and cables have been proven to interfere with Bluetooth devices due to the electronic noise they release falling over the same operating band as Bluetooth. The close proximity of Bluetooth and USB 3.0 devices can result in a drop in throughput or complete connection loss of the Bluetooth device/s connected to a computer.[104]

Various strategies can be applied to resolve the problem, ranging from simple solutions such as increasing the distance of USB 3.0 devices from any Bluetooth devices or purchasing better shielded USB cables. Other solutions include applying additional shielding to the internal USB components of a computer.[105]

Bluetooth award programs

The Bluetooth Innovation World Cup, a marketing initiative of the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG), was an international competition that encouraged the development of innovations for applications leveraging Bluetooth technology in sports, fitness and health care products. The aim of the competition was to stimulate new markets.[106]

The Bluetooth Innovation World Cup morphed into the Bluetooth Breakthrough Awards in 2013. The Breakthrough Awards[107] Bluetooth program highlights the most innovative products and applications available today, prototypes coming soon, and student-led projects in the making.

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