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Broadcom launches 802.11ac WiFi chips for PCs and tablets

New chips are capable of hitting 866Mbps speeds

Semiconductor firm Broadcom has launched three new 802.11ac WiFi chips at the Computex trade show in Taiwan, designed to meet growing consumer demand for speed, reliability and power efficiency.

The new chips - BCM4350, BCM43556 and BCM43558 - aim to deliver the speed, range and power necessary for connected home devices, including PCs, tablets, set-top boxes, TVs, and retail routers.

All of the chips have 2X2 multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO) antennas that enable them to hit 866Mbps speeds and optimise traffic through beamforming. They also feature Broadcom's proprietary TurboQAM technology for a 33 percent increase in 2.4GHz speed.

BCM4350 is a combo chip designed specifically for PCs, tablets and set-top boxes, and supports Bluetooth 4.0, PCI Express and SDIO 3.0 for high performance and low power consumption.

Meanwhile, BCM43556 (standalone 802.11ac WiFi) and BCM43558 (combo with 802.11ac WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0) include USB 3.0 support and offer full compatibility with latest PC platforms, including Microsoft Windows 7 and Windows 8.

"By offering multiple design options we are enabling more devices to reap the dramatic benefits of [802.11ac] WiFi, significantly improving performance in the connected home," said Rahul Patel, Broadcom Vice President, Product Marketing, Wireless Connectivity Combo Group.

A recent report by market research firm Infonetics revealed that the global wireless LAN (WLAN) market - including enterprise access points, WLAN controllers, and WiFi phones - declined by seven percent in the first quarter of 2013 to $1 billion (£654m).

Despite the dip, however, WLAN equipment revenue remains on a double-digit year-over-year growth trajectory for the fourteenth quarter in a row.

"As we've cautioned before, growth in the WLAN market is slowing as the transition to 802.11n winds down and buyers await the arrival of 802.11ac products," said Matthias Machowinski, directing analyst for enterprise networks and video at Infonetics Research.

"Even so, WLAN remains a bright spot in the networking industry, and is up 18 percent year-over-year in 1Q13, driven by more wireless devices, mobility, and the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) movement."

Broadcom made a number of other announcements at Computex, including what it claims is the industry's first family of HomePlug AV2 devices that can deliver up to 1.5Gbps data speed over a home's existing electrical wiring.

Similar to using multiple Wi-Fi antennas, HomePlug AV2 uses the three wires in a typical electrical outlet to simultaneously send more data on the different paths.

"Our new devices enable global carriers and consumer electronics companies to offer superior voice, video and data services and products throughout the home," said Greg Fischer, Broadcom's Vice President and General Manager for Broadband Carrier Access.


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