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.”

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