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Broadcom chip integrates NFC, other wireless technologies

New quad-combo Broadcom processor set to be showcased at CES; reach full production by March, 2013

Broadcom Tuesday unveiled a single chip that combines Near Field Communication technology with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and FM radio.

The company expects that the new chip will boost the use of NFC in smartphones and other mobile devices.

NFC technology is now housed on its own chip, thus requiring separate space in a smartphone, said Mohamed Awad, associate product line director for mobile and wireless at Broadcom.

The separate NFC processors require connections to other wireless chips in smartphones, so more hardware hardware and software engineering -- and thus more expense for device makers -- is needed, he said.

The new quad-combo Broadcom chip, called the BCM43341, will be showcased at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January.

Samples are now being tested by customers. Full production is expected in the first quarter of 2013, which likely means the chips could be installed in mobile devices later next year.

"It's full speed ahead," Awad said in an interview. "We've really been able to optimize uses for NFC."

He noted that many device makers have expressed an interest in the new chip.

He said the biggest use for NFC technology will initially be for sharing data between NFC devices, and then for mobile wallet applications.

Smartphones running Android Beam use NFC to kick off a Bluetooth pairing between devices to share songs, movies and other data. NFC works when two NFC devices are brought within about an inch of each other.

Broadcom contributed NFC software for use in the open source Android 4.2 mobile OS.

The new quad combo chip will support 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands.

Broadcom projects that the market for NFC chips will quadruple in three years. Awad said NFC is currently used in about 100 million wireless phones, while 1.5 billion in use still lack the technology.

Broadcom today also unveiled a single card that combines its existing 5G Wi-Fi chip with the BCM20793 NFC chip.

What Broadcom referred to as 5G Wi-Fi is also known as 802.11 ac, an emerging Wi-Fi standard that theoretically allows 1 Gbps speeds over the 5 GHz band.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen, or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed . His e-mail address is [email protected].

Read more about mobile/wireless in Computerworld's Mobile/Wireless Topic Center.


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