Last week, Broadcom introduced its first single-chip 802.11n solution, the Intensi-fi BCM4322, which uses 65-nanometer process technology to minimize both the chip’s size and its power consumption. The BCM4322 combines the MAC, baseband, power amplifiers and radios on a single die.
The company’s previous-generation 802.11n product was a two-chip solution using 130-nanometer and 180-nanometer technology, notes Broadcom senior product line manager Kevin Mukai – so the shift to 65-nanometer tech is significant. “What we’re able to do with this solution is cut our bill of materials and the actual real estate footprint by almost half,” he says.
Looking at the needs of the market for 802.11n, Mukai says, size matters – for everything from smaller laptops to smaller USB dongles to PCI Express Mini Cards. “Going to this small size allows vendors and customers to pack more wireless technologies into a platform,” he says.
Still, it’s about a lot more than just size. On the new chip, Mukai says, power consumption is cut in half from the company’s previous 802.11n offering – along with a 40 percent cost savings.
Mukai says the most tangible result of all of this is likely to be more widespread use of 802.11n for home entertainment applications like music and video streaming. Need some examples? With a throughput of more than 200 Mbps, the company says, ‘Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest’ on HD can be transferred in 3.5 minutes over 802.11n, as opposed to 47 minutes over 802.11g – and Bob Dylan’s entire collection of 414 MP3s would take 36 seconds over 802.11n, compared to 35 minutes over 802.11b.
“The cost and the form factor really start making 11n viable for the consumer electronics space,” Mukai says. “The primary driver of that is distribution of media – for instance, high definition content, video and music throughout the home. That’s been one of the promises of 11n itself, and driving the cost down will allow us to actually start servicing those types of applications in a major way. It’s been out there for a while in a nascent way, but with the 4322, we can really start to enable that market.”
ABI Research agrees – a recent report from the research firm entitled Wi-Fi in Consumer Electronics predicts that 15.4 million 802.11n-enabled consumer devices will ship next year, an increase of nearly 500 percent over this year’s total of 3.2 million. “Single-chip 802.11n solutions are critical to enabling 802.11n consumer electronics devices for the home,” says ABI analyst Philip Solis.
And with the Wi-Fi Alliance getting behind Draft N products with a certification program and a corresponding logo, Mukai says, any concerns about standardization have been allayed.
In fact, Mukai says the Wi-Fi Alliance certification attracted a whole new market of corporate users to 802.11n over the past few months. “Enterprises have really started to see the need, and have started to shift a lot of their products to adopt an 11n strategy – it’s truly been a galvanizing force in the industry,” he says.
Still, Mukai says the real strength of the new chipset comes back to the consumer electronics space, for everything from televisions to set-top boxes to camcorders. “One of the key reasons we developed this technology was to enable the wireless ecosystem in the home… That’s a key application for this technology – and for this product,” he says.
The BCM4322 is sampling now, with production quantities expected to ship in Q1 2008.