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Broadcom Chip Combines 802.11n, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth

A wireless combination chip unveiled Monday by Broadcom promises to pave the way to the creation of new mobile phones that will support additional media and data applications without the need for larger chip size or expanded battery life.

The BCM4329 integrates 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and FM technologies in a single silicon die, giving developers a new tool as they continue their relentless march toward creating ever-smaller handheld devices with ever-broader capabilities.

"We see the BCM4329 as a gateway for tying mobile devices -- phones, media players, handheld games, and even personal navigation devices -- into the digital home," said Chris Bergey, director of Broadcom's Embedded WLAN unit, in an e-mail.

"802.11n," he continued, "provides the bandwidth and coverage needed to move the digital content like images, music, video clips that are usually trapped on the handset to other Wi-Fi and Bluetooth devices. For example, consumers who download a movie to their mobile phone can easily transfer it to their Wi-Fi-enabled PC or TV, or send pictures taken on their phones directly to a printer."

As part of a new effort to address wireless connectivity, Broadcom noted that it's committed to introducing a new combination chip every 60 days based on its Wi-Fi/Bluetooth/FM platform chip, the Broadcom BCM4325. As the latest member of the platform, the BCM4329 delivers as much as 50 Mbps of actual wireless throughput for large file transfers. In addition, the device features FM transmit and receive capability.

The chip integrates Bluetooth capability for hands-free communications with wireless headsets, utilizing proprietary algorithms and a shared antenna system to enable Bluetooth to coexist with Wi-Fi on the same 2.4 GHz band.

"Handset manufacturers are excited about the opportunities that 802.11n brings, but they are looking for single antenna solutions that meet stringent size and power requirements," said Bergey. "From the carrier's perspective, adding connectivity features creates profitable new usage models. Consumers aren't willing to pay much for content that is limited to a single device. The ability to enjoy the content -- for example, a movie downloaded from a service provider -- on other devices increases its value. This presents more opportunities for other handset manufacturers and mobile operators to monetize content delivery."

Broadcom said the device will be available in 2009.

So what should enterprises be looking for in developing with 802.11n? InformationWeek has compiled an analysis of the topic. Download the report here (registration required).