Broadcom sets its sights on a billion NFC devices

The connectivity chip maker has launched the BCM43341, a combo chip that combines NFC, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and FM radio and is designed to meet ever increasing demand from mass market mobile phone and consumer electronics device makers.

Broadcom's Mohamed Awad
AWAD: “We’re poised now to go after the next billion devices”

Broadcom has launched the industry’s first quad-combo chip. The BCM43341 combines NFC, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and FM radio on one chip and, says Broadcom, “offers OEMs unmatched size, power and cost advantages.”

A second new product is a single card solution that pairs a BCM20793 NFC controller as used in the Google Nexus 4 with an 802.11ac (5G) WiFi radio and is aimed at high end mobile phones and devices.

Because combo chips are able to combine several functions on one IC they are typically cheaper than multi chip options, both in terms of the cost of buying the chip itself and in terms of the amount of space they take up within a mobile device. But the design and production of combination chips also requires higher upfront investment from the chip maker and that means they are usually only an option for very high volume technologies, and then only when standards have settled down — something that hasn’t been the case with NFC until now.

Interest in NFC is, however, now accelerating among OEM device manufacturers, Broadcom’s Mohamed Awad has told NFC World. “We’re poised now to go after the next billion devices.”

“Taking two radios and putting them on the same die is not a trivial exercise,” Awad explained. “You need to make sure there’s a home for these products in the market so you can recoup your investment.”

“We think the use cases and consumer awareness is now happening,” he added. “It’s all around simplified connectivity. There are some very specific attributes that NFC has — nothing else can convey the sense of intention that NFC can.”

The new quad-combo chip is now sampling and volume production is due to begin in the first quarter of 2013.

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