Belkin Bluetooth Access Point Reviewed

Blue magic

I'm not sure exactly what method the AP uses internally to bridge the Bluetooth and Ethernet LANs, but it's not as transparent as you get with an 802.11a or b access point. The reason for this is rooted in how the Bluetooth LAN Access Profile works.

Tip TIP: Bluetooth profiles can be thought of as descriptions of services or functions that a Bluetooth device supports. A given profile must be supported on both Bluetooth devices in order for them to work together.

The LAN Access profile is based on the same PPP communications model used by a dial-up modem - a fact that sometimes reveals itself in the messages you may see while your Bluetooth client establishes a connection to the AP.

The main thing you need to be aware of about the way that the Belkin AP works is that your Bluetooth client (a laptop, for example) will not have an IP address in the same subnet as the rest of your LAN. For example, my LAN runs on the 192.168.3.X Class C subnet, but my laptop that was connected to the AP via a Bluetooth PC card showed an IP address of - definitely not something that came from my LAN router's DHCP server!

Although this address was odd, it didn't affect my laptop's ability to connect to the Internet once I fired up its browser. It did, however, keep network browsing from working, i.e. seeing and connecting to other computers via Network Neighborhood or My Network Places.

Belkin verified that support for NetBIOS broadcast is not baked into the current firmware, but says that it should be supported in a future release. In the meantime, you'll need to connect to other computers on the network via their IP address using Windows' Find Computer or Search for Computer.

The Inside Story

Figure 1 shows an internal view of the F8T030, which is powered by a NetSilicon NET+50 network processor.

Belkin F8T030 internal view

Figure 1: F8T030 internal view
(click on the image for a full-sized view)

The picture shows the Bluetooth radio module, which uses a single chip Bluetooth radio from Cambridge Silicon Radio, unplugged and lying to the right of the main board. Note that the LAN port actually supports 10/100 operation - not that it will buy you any speed, since Bluetooth's maximum data rate is about 700 kbps or so. The dual USB ports are supported by a TransDimension UHC124 USB Host controller.