Broadcom goes small

Small is beautiful--and cheap. In evidence: Broadcom's BMC4325, a single 65nm CMOS chip which offers WiFi, Bluetooth and an FM radio. The new chip should make it possible for OEMs to cut the cost further--and demand for power--of WiFi-enabled handsets, and may even contribute to hastening the pace of cellular-WiFi convergence.

Broadcom's is not the first chip to offer WiFi and Bluetooth--Marvell came out with one last year--but it is the smallest (Marvell's chip used 90nm CMOS). Rumor has it that TI is getting ready to offer a similar chip, and Qualcomm's Airgo cannot be too far behind.

Integrating several wireless technologies onto a single chip is favored by mobile device manufacturers, but there is a problem: Multiple radios on one chip may lead to self-interference, especially as 802.11b/g and Bluetooth both operate in the 2.4 GHz range. Broadcom says it has effectively addressed this problem by using its InConcert algorithms which run the two with separate antennas, or, if space is especially tight, by sharing an antenna.

The chip architecture is interesting: The chips requires 40 percent less power than competing chips without degrading performance. The chip supports 802.11a/b/g standards and the faster 2.0 plus version of Bluetooth with enhanced data rate (EDR) (upgradeable to Bluetooth version 2.1). Both the WiFi and Bluetooth systems take on most of the processing, thus cutting demand on the main phone processor and increasing battery life. Broadcom went a step further: The FM radio supports both US and European standards for radio data.

For more on Broadcom latest converged offering:
- see company's press release 

MORE: According to the Global Mobile Suppliers Association, EDGE is currently operating on nearly 200 networks worldwide. Most GPRS networks will convert to EDGE as part of the evolution to 3G, with 258 networks in 136 countries committed to deploying EDGE. Of those networks, 196 are commercial in 105 countries. Market research firm iSupply says EDGE represents the single largest segment of the mobile phone market, with 470 million units expected to ship in 2010. Market analysts expect the standalone RF transceiver market to approach $6 billion by 2010. Broadcom knows all this, and it has just come out with its BCM2085, an advanced EDGE transceiver measuring only 4mm x 4mm. It uses advanced polar and "auto-calibration" technologies and supports Class 34 and the new DigRF standard. Press release