At Mobile World Congress 2014, last week in Barcelona, we had an opportunity to meet with the people at Broadcom to get an update of where the company is in terms of wireless technology. Especially when you consider that Broadcom has been a bit behind in terms of cellular technology.
The first thing we saw was their new NFC receiver, which is actually a huge improvement over the previous generation for a multitude of reasons.
Broadcom’s new BCM20795 has a multitude of improvements over the previous generation of NFC receivers, especially when you look at the image above. The image above illustrates exactly how much smaller the new generation is compared to the previous generation. Because of this optimized footprint, the board are itself is 35% smaller and also results in 30% fewer external components that need to complement the NFC receiver. It ultimately results in a 35% cost savings for OEMs and has significantly lower power consumption. Broadcom claims that it has the industry’s lowest power consumption, with a 60% savings in mobile device applications. So, not only is this new receiver more power efficient, but its also significantly smaller which improves the applications where it can be used.
Below, we have a demonstration of the new NFC receiver which is commonly used for payment methods, sharing data, and pairing devices. I personally have used Broadcom’s older generation NFC receiver in my Nexus 5 to pay for things using NFC and it simply works. But now, with this new receiver, many much smaller devices will be able to use NFC as well, including wearables, making the experience much better.
Following that, we checked out Broadcom’s Cat6 LTE demonstration, which is basically a result of their absorption of Renesas electronics’ mobile division. This demonstration was designed to create a full Cat6 network scenario to demonstrate that they have Cat6 LTE working and are expecting to have their 300 Mbps carrier aggregation ready this year. Their 40 MHz carrier aggregation is through LTE FDD and TDD and is a 300 Mbps down and 50 Mbps up throughput solution that supports envelope tracking and VoLTE. In addition to LTE, their Cat6 chip will support 3G’s full breadth of DC-HSPA+ at 42 Mbps as well as TD-SCDMA and will support dual SIM and dual active SIM. Another interesting feature that their new Cat6 LTE modems will have is seamless Wi-Fi handoff to Broadcom’s 5G WiFi 802.11ac combo chips. This would be utilized by carriers that have Wi-Fi calling features like Sprint or T-Mobile and would be a great thing to have for users that have fairly poor coverage at home, but don’t want to drop their calls or data connection.
Speaking of Wi-Fi, Broadcom has been a leader in high-performance WiFi with their 802.11ac WiFi chips powering many of the flagship devices of last year like the HTC One and Galaxy S4. And now, this year, they plan to improve upon that with their new ‘5G WiFi’ 2×2 MIMO combo chip for smartphones. The BCM4354 is designed to significantly improve the signal and data throughput of smartphone 802.11ac connectivity as well as reduce power consumption by what they claim to be 25%. What’s even more interesting is that this combo chip brings not only 2×2 5G Wi-Fi (802.11ac) but it also delivers Bluetooth 4.1/Bluetooth LE, an FM receiver AND Rezence wireless charging support. For those unfamiliar with Rezence, we actually just did an article about it yesterday detailing all of the amazing benefits of magnetic resonance charging, which is the technical name for Rezence wireless charging.
It actually comes in both low-power PCIe and SDIO 3.0 interfaces, which makes it very flexible for OEMs to implement. And much like the previous generation it does have transmit beamforming, TurboQAM, LDPC codes and high accuracy indoor location.
In the demo above, they simply showed the performance differences between exactly idential smartphones but with different Wi-Fi chips, with one featuring the old technology and the other featuring the new 2×2 BCM4354 combo chip. They used a commercially available Netgear 802.11ac consumer router to test the speed differences and with the stock consumer Samsung Galaxy S4, they were able to get a max of 162 Mbps while with the same phone modded to use the BCM4354 they were able to get a max of 354 Mbps, more than double the previous generation.
So, as you can tell, Broadcom had a lot to show at Mobile World Congress, some new, some not, but what it definitely helped illustrate is that Broadcom is much more in the game than they have been in the past. And that they will be an interesting company to follow as the year progresses forward. Especially on the Wi-Fi and NFC fronts. It will also be interesting to see when they can ship a Cat6 LTE modem and get a carrier to approve it a well.