Broadcom unveils new 802.11ac chips designed for significantly better Wi-Fi experiece

At CES 2014, Broadcom announces two new 5G WiFi system-on-a-chips (SoCs) designed to deliver range and speed while using less power from the host device's CPU.

Dong Ngo SF Labs Manager, Editor / Reviews
CNET editor Dong Ngo has been involved with technology since 2000, starting with testing gadgets and writing code for CNET Labs' benchmarks. He now manages CNET San Francisco Labs, reviews 3D printers, networking/storage devices, and also writes about other topics from online security to new gadgets and how technology impacts the life of people around the world.
Dong Ngo
2 min read
Broadcom has been betting heavily on 802.11ac (5G Wi-Fi) and says its new chips will help significantly enhance users' Wi-Fi experience at home.
Broadcom has been betting heavily on 802.11ac (5G Wi-Fi) and says its new chips will help significantly enhance users' Wi-Fi experience at home. Broadcom

Broadcom, which three years ago released the first chip to incorporate the new 802.11ac Wi-Fi standard -- which it calls 5G Wi-Fi -- is at it again.

The company announced today at CES 2014 two new 5G Wi-Fi client system-on-a-chips (SoCs), models BCM43569 and BCM43602, designed to offer Wi-Fi speed and range while reducing the Wi-Fi processing power of the host device.

As Broadcom explains it, consumers generally stream video content to multiple devices at home using various applications and content delivery services. This create interference when multiple devices are using the same frequencies, leading to signal quality degradation than expected. For example, using Bluetooth- and Wi-Fi-enabled devices such as remotes, speakers, and game controllers at the same time can reduce available Wi-Fi bandwidth and cause latency when playing an online game or streaming a movie from a tablet to a smart TV.

Broadcom says the new BCM43569 and BCM43602 are designed to tackle this problem.

The BCM43569 chip is a dual-band 2x2 MIMO combo chip with a USB 3.0 interface and coexistence technology that enables performance by allowing smart TVs to receive both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth (4.1) signals simultaneously. Broandcom claims it's the first chip to include a common USB port for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and integrated Power Amplifiers (iPA) across both bands. It's designed to deliver up to three times the bandwidth of its peers, and it comes with a separate Bluetooth low-noise amplifier (LNA) as well as customized Wi-Fi and Bluetooth coexistence algorithms. It can be used in adapters that use either a USB 3.0 or USB 2.0 interface.

The BCM43602, on the other hand, is designed for the PCIe interface and is capable of receiving 802.11ac speeds up to 900Mbps. Broadcom says the entire WLAN software driver for the chip runs inside the chip itself, freeing up the host's (for instance, a computer) CPU power for other tasks.

Both of these chips are now sampling to OEMs, which means you can expect to see the final products based on them sometime this year.