Broadcom To Offer All-in-One WiFi Chip

By decreasing space requirements and boosting power efficiency, Broadcom said its new, single-chip wireless solution marks a revolutionary breakthrough for the wireless industry and will make wireless local area networks (WLANs) less expensive and easier to build.

Touting as much as 87 percent space savings and extended battery life, Broadcom said the size and efficiency of its single 802.11 chip, called AirForce One, makes WiFi connectivity practical for a new class of handheld devices, such as PDAs, mobile phones, digital cameras, MP3 players and more.

Gartner vice president of mobile computing Ken Dulaney told TechNewsWorld the chip — which is designed to cut component and implementation costs — lays the groundwork for wireless Internet connectivity throughout a variety of devices in the home or office.

“Any time you can bring something down in cost like that, it creates huge new opportunities,” Dulaney said.

Chip Packs Punch

The chip, referred to as the Broadcom BCM4317, integrates a 2.4-GHz radio, power amplifier, 802.11b processor, medium-access controller (MAC) and other radio components on a single silicon die.

The Irvine, California-based company, which touts several industry firsts, said its single-chip design reduces necessary components and the number of chips required for wireless systems.

“This unprecedented level of chip integration eliminates more than 100 discrete components and makes the one-chip model 87 percent smaller than traditional mini-PCI WiFi solutions,” the company said in a statement.

Wireless Reach

Blaming the power and size demands of traditional WLAN chips for confining the technology to PCs, Broadcom said its single-chip approach will deliver wireless connectivity to previously untapped markets.

The AirForce One chip, designed to prolong power with Broadcom’s SuperStandby software, is aimed at pocket-size electronic devices and is likely to appear first in PDAs, according to Broadcom.

“This opens the door for us to enable countless new applications and further extends our leadership in the wireless networking market,” Broadcom president and chief executive officer Alan “Lanny” Ross said in a statement.

Leading Edge

IDC analyst Alex Slawsby told TechNewsWorld the single chip is a positive step toward wider use of WiFi in handheld devices, but added it is way out in front of the market.

“We are definitely on the leading edge of this at this point,” Slawsby said. “Really, the mobile device space has not provided devices with the compute power to take advantage of WiFi. It’s going to take chipsets like this one to give you a compelling experience in a device.”

Slawsby said that while there is both corporate and consumer interest in using WiFi to allow voice over IP through mobile phones and other devices — and thereby avoid the cost of air time — other compelling applications and a user base for the technology have yet to emerge.

Internet Everywhere

Dulaney said that while the power efficiencies of AirForce One are not significantly more than traditional technologies have delivered, the chip’s space savings are important “because there’s a lot of small things” [packed onto the chip].

Dulaney also said the chip might be a step toward wirelessly connecting all of a home’s devices to the Internet, allowing voice over IP telephone calls from a cordless phone, for example.

“What we’re seeing here are the price points and form factor that will make LANs much more pervasive,” Dulaney said. “This kind of chip will take us into the next phase of the Internet, which is true pervasiveness.”

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