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A few years ago it was recognized that the vision of a truly low-cost, low-power radio-based cable replacement was feasible. Such a ubiquitous link would provide the basis for portable devices to communicate together in an ad hoc fashion by creating personal area networks which have similar advantages to their office environment counterpart, the local area network. Bluetooth/sup TM/ is an effort by a consortium of companies to design a royalty-free technology specification enabling this vision. This article describes the radio system behind the Bluetooth concept. Designing an ad hoc radio system for worldwide usage poses several challenges. The article describes the critical system characteristics and motivates the design choices that have been made.