updated 04:00 pm EST, Mon December 8, 2008
Broadcom has developed a new communications processor that should finally bring 802.11n Wi-Fi to cellphones without the extra power normally needed for the technology. Called the BCM4329, the chip allows the wireless link on the 2.4GHz or 5GHz bands up to 50Mbps in real-world conditions but actually uses less power than earlier parts limited to the older 802.11g standard. It also uses a technique known as space time block coding to more reliably hold a connection on the fringes of the network.
The chip also provides a Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR transceiver to support wireless earphones and other peripherals, and carries both an FM tuner and a receiver to either pick up local radio or else to broadcast a device's sound to a car stereo.
Broadcom is already providing sample chips to manufacturers looking to test the hardware and plans to ship the BCM4329 in volume sometime in 2009. None of Broadcom's customers have been named.
The chip is potentially key to a newer generation of smartphones and portable media players, some of which now support direct downloads of music and podcasts as well as Internet radio. Video downloads, as well as faster cellular technologies such as HSPA+ and LTE, are threatening to outpace 802.11g Wi-Fi's speed.