Broadcom’s New Mobile Chip: NFC is the New WiFi

Broadcom unveiled a new chip that offers support for near-field communications, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, and FM radio on a single piece of silicon. The BCM43341 is a re-architected replica of a similar chip that only supports the latter three wireless technologies, and can be found in Apple and Samsung devices today.

The big thing to note is that the new chipset aims to make NFC a practical technology from a business standpoint.

The BCM is only slightly more expensive than its predecessor, but comes in cheaper than the combined price of the old chip plus the additional hardware component that a manufacturer would have to buy in order to add NFC support.   From the consumer point of view the four-in-one platform makes sense as well, because it only uses about 100 microamps, which is more than reasonable, according to company officials.

Michael Hurlston, the head of Broadcom’s home and wireless networking unit, sees near-field communications as the next generation medium for content-sharing. But colleague Mohamed Awad, who runs Broadcom’s mobile and wireless group, believes that NFC has a much brighter future ahead of it.

“I absolutely believe payments is going to happen,” he said. “People are certainly looking at payments – you’ve got Isis, you’ve got Google Wallet, you’ve got lots of different drives towards payments today.”

In spite of the benefits, users and carriers are not always eager to adopt new technologies. That’s why Broadcom is bundling its new chip with existing technologies; the exact same approach taken with WiFi years ago. That initiative turned out to be a whopping success, Awad boasted.

The debut of the BCM43341 comes less than a week after Broadcom told investors it will supply its top-paying customers with sample LTE chips throughout 2013.