Broadcom puts Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and FM radio on a chip

Broadcom has put Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and an FM radio on a single 65nm CMOS chip

Silicon vendor Broadcom has put Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and an FM radio on a single 65nm CMOS chip. The device should cut the cost -- and power demands -- of Wi-Fi enabled phone handsets, and hasten converged phone services.

Although Marvell announced Wi-Fi and Bluetooth on a chip last year, that was a larger chip using 90nm CMOS. Broadcom's BMC4325 has got ahead of the game by using a smaller lower-power technology -- and throwing in an FM receiver as well. Other vendors, like Qualcomm's Airgo acquisition are promising to integrate the two.

The price and battery life of dual-mode phones is one of the key factors in the conflict over indoor wireless. As long as dual-mode devices are expensive battery hogs, the mobile operators will be rolling out indoor femtocell access points that keep the user on their cellular networks.

"Integrating multiple wireless technologies onto a single chip will be welcomed by mobile device manufacturers due to the inherent cost, space and power savings it will enable," said Stuart Carlaw, wireless research director at ABI Research.

However, multiple radios in one chip can be tricky because of self-interference - at least between Wi-Fi b/g and Bluetooth in the 2.4GHz range. Broadcom believes it has cracked this with its InConcert algorithms that run the two in tandem, either with separate antennas, or sharing an antenna to save space.

The smaller chip has power demands 40 percent less than competing chips, says Broadcom. But the implementations on the chip aren't cut-down. The Wi-Fi system supports the 802.11a/b/g standards, and the Bluetooth uses the faster 2.0 plus standard with enhanced data rate (EDR), and will be upgradeable to Bluetooth version 2.1. Both take on significant processing, which cuts demands on the main phone processor, again increasing battery life.

Even the FM radio isn't just a basic one -- it support both US and European standards for radio data.

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