Broadcom's Wi-Fi + Bluetooth + FM Radio

By Eric Griffith

February 02, 2007

The company's latest chip combo puts them all on silicon so small it saves power.

Broadcom isn't shy about saying it's number one in Wi-Fi chips -- and it claims it's also tops in Bluetooth chip sales, at least in handsets (CSR is the Bluetooth leader overall). Broadcom's newest announcement combines its wireless specialties -- starting in 2008, it will offer silicon with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and even FM radio reception, all on one wafer.

"The idea is for us to open up a new market, particularly in Wi-Fi, where handsets are increasing in adoption," says Michael Hurlston, vice president and general manager of the WLAN Business Unit at Broadcom. That market will extend to other handhelds like media players and game devices that also want Bluetooth connectivity along with Wi-Fi. "From a battery and footprint perspective, we've taken the leapfrog position and put them both on a single die," he says.

The BCM4325 system-on-a-chip (SoC) will be made in a 65-nanometer CMOS process. The small size of the chip will contribute to overall power savings. Coexistence of Bluetooth and Wi-Fi — both of which use the 2.4 GHz spectrum and could interfere with each other — is not a problem, says Hurlston. "We've found unique ways of optimizing the coexistence," he says. "We're the only company we know of supporting multimedia and voice over Wi-Fi and Bluetooth headsets simultaneously over a shared antenna."

Broadcom plans to be in production by the third quarter of this year, but the chip probably won't be in end user products until 2008. It will support 802.11a/b/g (not 11n) and Bluetooth 2.0, upgradeable to 2.1.

Broadcom isn't alone in making Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, of course. Earlier this week, Atheros announced its plans to get into the Bluetooth space for the first time, but with a discrete chip for PCs, not handsets. That chip, they claim, will support Bluetooth 2.1 out of the gate.



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