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Broadcom aims to double Wi-Fi speeds with new 802.11ac chip

The mobile chipmaker expects to be moving to double-antenna 2x2 MIMO technology for mobile phones. Also: a new GPS chip for wearable devices.

Broadcom logo

BARCELONA, Spain -- Broadcom announced a new networking processor Monday that brings a faster flavor of the new 802.11ac Wi-Fi standard to mobile phones.

The BCM4354 system-on-a-chip supports the 2x2 MIMO (multiple input/multiple output) technology, which can transfer data faster on a single frequency by using two transmitting antennas and two receiving antennas. The technology -- at least when a newer 802.11ac-equipped network access point is on hand -- doubles the data rate of earlier 1x1 products while cutting power usage by 25 percent, the company said Monday here at the Mobile World Congress.

Faster Wi-Fi is nice, though few people today have 802.11ac routers installed at home or work. However, Broadcom's technology could also help when people are out and about as carriers seek to offload data to Wi-Fi from overtaxed 3G and 4G mobile networks.

Broadcom is making samples of the chip right now. The company didn't say when production versions would arrive, but typically it takes a few months between sampling and full production.

Trying to tap into the new wearable computing market, the communications chipmaker also announced a new type of product, the Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) system-on-chip. This SOC both handles satellite-based geolocation duties and serves as a hub for receiving information from other sensors, such as accelerometers used in tracking how many steps a person has taken.

Broadcom also announced a near-field communication (NFC) controller, a chip type that's increasingly common in mobile phones to permit tap-to-pay technology and other short-range wireless communications. NFC is hardly a high-speed interface, but the new chip increases data transfer to 848Kbps and adds support for new NFC standards, Broadcom said.