RealTime IT News

Broadcom Buy Targets Mobile TV

Anticipating demand for real-time TV on phones and low-power Wi-Fi , communications chipmaker Broadcom will acquire Athena Semiconductors for $21.6 million in cash.

Athena's mobile digital TV tuners, built on the DVB-H standard, allow handsets, PDAs and media players to receive real-time news, weather, sports and entertainment content.

Service providers are currently testing DVB-H service worldwide, and researchers at In-Stat estimate that the sale of digital TV tuner chips could hit 81 million units by 2010.

In addition, Athena's low-power Wi-Fi chips will also help Broadcom's business with device makers. To date, Wi-Fi chips have been used in laptops and home networking gear, both of which are usually hooked into power outlets.

But battery life will become an issue with the new generation of phones (especially those that use Wi-Fi to access Voice over IP networks), media players and handheld video games.

Athena also has experience with Multiple Input Multiple Output (MIMO) on a single chip, which promises faster data speeds for wireless networks. MIMO is expected to be part of the coming 802.11n standard.

"Athena's DVB-H technology complements Broadcom's mobile multimedia product line, and our Wi-Fi experience will enable faster-time-to-market for key low-power Wi-Fi chips," Pratap G. Reddy, Athena's president, COO and cofounder, said in a statement.

Besides complementary technology, the acquisition also adds 63 overseas engineers (40 in India; 23 in Greece) to Broadcom's research and development team. The Irvine, Calif.-based company has been planning to increase its headcount in India. It currently has about 80 people working in that country.

Athena is the second recent acquisition for Broadcom, which makes chips for DSL, cable, VoIP and wireless systems. This summer, it paid $75.5 million in cash for Siliquent Technologies.

"Broadcom is always evaluating changes in networking markets and keeping an eye on developments by different companies in various areas," Henry Rael, a Broadcom spokesman, said. "When it makes sense, we will make an acquisition."