Taking a deeper dive into Bluetooth 5

Courtesy of Nordic Semiconductor 

The first in a series of blogs that will help educate on what is most important about Bluetooth 5 and take you deeper into the details of how it works and how you can benefit most from using it.

Taking Bluetooth further, faster

Bluetooth 5 has been with us for a few months now and is proving to be as exciting in the world of Bluetooth developers we talk to as it was to us when the specification was proposed. With its core additions of considerably longer range (x4), doubled throughput and improved broadcasting bandwidth, it is no exaggeration to say this is the biggest thing to happen to Bluetooth since the introduction of low energy in v4.0. Five is going to take Bluetooth, quite literally, to places it has not been before.

Bluetooth 5 ready. Really?

When it comes to planning development for Bluetooth 5 and using its exciting new features there are some considerations to bear in mind to avoid disappointment. Bluetooth devices are fit for declaration of readiness for a Bluetooth specification by ensuring it fulfills the associated errata for that specification. This is in accordance with the Bluetooth SIG rules, so fair enough.

– Moreover, some manufacturers will actually say that –

The Nordic approach to Bluetooth 5 supporting products

However, we at Nordic do not take that approach, we believe more often is the case that almost anyone wanting to develop for Bluetooth 5 will wish to use one or more of the new additions that came with that specification. For Bluetooth 5 it is highly likely they belong to one or more of these three major advancements:

  • 2Mbs for higher throughput and/or energy saving
  • 500/125kbs modes for considerably increased range (x4)
  • Advertising extensions for increased broadcast capacity (x8)

We suggest if you want to develop products for Bluetooth 5, quickly check out that the devices you may be considering do actually support the features you are looking for and are not just claiming Bluetooth 5 based on fulfilling the errata, otherwise there is the risk of wasted time and disappointment.

Read more here:

Bluetooth 5: What to expect

By John Leonard – Courtesy of Nordic Semiconductor, April 6, 2017

Bluetooth 5 has been designed with the next era of connectivity firmly in mind. It promises to revolutionize the scope of how we experience smart connected products going forward, but there are important things to understand about the new specification.

Half a billion new Bluetooth devices are expected to appear each year by 2020. To cope with this, Bluetooth 5 allows more reliable connections, improved range and speed, and increased versatility. But to get all these benefits, you may need to reconsider your plan for powering the device.

Read more here on the Get connected Blog

Bluetooth 5

Bluetooth 5 is the latest version of the Bluetooth specification. With major new features such as long range and high throughput modes it represents one of the biggest advancements in the Bluetooth specification.

The Bluetooth 5 specification will undergo ratification in early December. Visit here for more information on Bluetooth 5 from December 12th 2016.

Major new features of Bluetooth 5

  • Higher datarate (x 2)
  • Long range (x 4)
  • Increased broadcast capability (x 8)

Longer Range

Bluetooth low energy is now potentially capable of up to 4 times the range it had previously. The longer range is achieved by scaling down the data rate in discrete steps. Bluetooth low energy now has the following data rate options

  • 2Mbs (High throughput mode)
  • 1Mbs
  • 500kbs (long range mode)
  • 125kbs (long range mode)

Higher data throughput

The data rate for Bluetooth low energy has now been extended from a singular transmission speed (1Mbs) to four discrete data rate speeds as seen in the list above. The maximum speed is doubled to 2Mbs. Together with advancements introduced in Bluetooth 4.2 which allowed for Data Length Extensions (DLE) overall throughput is x5 higher than the original Bluetooth 4.0 level. Now net data throughput not including overhead such as addressing can be as high as 1.4Mbs. Data packet size, datarate and overall data throughput are illustrated in fig. 1.


Fig. 1 Bluetooth 5 data packet size/throughput chart

This increase offers opportunities for new applications that simply need more data throughput than was possible previously. It also enables much faster Over the Air Device Firmware Upgrades (OTA-DFU).The nRF52840, like all members of the nRF5x series Socks is a flash-based SoC thus enabling it to take advantage of this increased speed to perform firmware updates and for uploading data in bulk fashion.

Increased broadcasting capacity

Advertising extensions are introduced to alleviate advertising channel occupancy and potential channel congestion. Data Length Extensions and a new PHY layer means longer packet lengths in terms of actual data and the length of time they occupy a channel. As only 3 advertising channels exist these channels could soon become congested with advertising packets with large data payloads at lower on-air transmission speeds such as 125kbs.Advertising extensions mitigates this potential issue by advertising on the 3 advertising channels as previously, but the data to be sent is on an agreed non-advertising channel.

Bluetooth 5_fig2

Fig. 2 Advertising extensions allocation of channel for advertising data

An additional feature of Advertising extensions is the ability to chain advertising packets to create extended advertising data payloads seen in fig. 3


Fig. 3 Advertising extensions ‘chaining’ of advertising data packets

Periodic advertising allows for more synchronized broadcasting of data between devices. In this mode periodic advertising happens at a deterministic periodic interval thus allowing true connectionless broadcasting.

nRF52840 and nRF52832 Bluetooth 5-ready SoCs

The nRF52840 and nRF52832 multi-protocol SoCs has been designed to take advantage of these significant performance advancements of Bluetooth 5. Additionally, the nRF52840 has improved output power of 8dB which together with new long range features in Bluetooth 5 offer significant new application possibilities requiring longer range communication.

nRF52840/nRF52832 Bluetooth 5 feature support

Bluetooth 5 features nRF52840 nRF52832
Long range X
Higher throughput X X
Increased broadcast capacity X X


Related products
nRF52840 Multi-protocol Bluetooth 5, Bluetooth low energy, ANT, 802.15.4, 2.4GHz RF SoC
nRF52832 Multi-protocol Bluetooth low energy/ANT/2.4GHz SoC
nRF52840 Preview DK Development kit for nRF52840 SoC
S140 Bluetooth 5 protocol stack for nRF52840
S132 Bluetooth 4.2 protocol stack for nRF52840
nRF5 SDK Software Development Kit for nRF51 and nRF52 Series