As I Was Saying

Multiple Cable Options for Broadcom's 5G Chip

2/26/2014 11:30 PM

Broadcom's introduction of another 5G WiFi chip this week creates several opportunities for cable operators, plus a big potential competitive challenge. 

While the BCM4354 System-on-a-Chip (SoC), introduced Monday at the World Mobile Conference in Barcelona, is aimed at the smartphone market, the microprocessor shares attributes with Broadcom chips for home networking devices that the company is peddling to the cable market.

Hence, the 2x2 MIMO (Multiple Input Multiple Output) chip could become an important tool for fast in-home wireless distribution of video and other high-capacity data services. Moreover, the fifth-generation technology could accelerate objectives of the CableWiFi roaming consortium, which seeks to expand its wireless-everywhere agenda.

Contrarily, the 5G chip also makes it easier for mobile users to watch video and surf the Web without a wire, thus creating more reasons for the 'net generation to abandon cable.  The chip doubles throughput for faster video and music downloads and improves power efficiency up to 25 percent, says Broadcom, which also claims that the new SoC boosts wireless coverage up to 30%.

Fifth-generation Wi-Fi (802.11ac) delivers download speeds up to three times faster than existing networks and has power efficiency six times greater than what's available in most mobile devices, Broadcom says.

Although the company made no home networking pitch for the product at Barcelona, at last month's International CES Broadcom previewed 5G chips (BCM43569: note the slightly different product number) for home networking devices.  At CES, Broadcom focused on the chip's ability to stream video through routers, gateways, set-top boxes and well as digital TV sets and game consoles.  As with the mobile chips, the home version can reduce interference  and supports "transmit beamforming" (TxBF), which "improves rate over range performance in congested environments for data-intense applications," the company says. 

Conveniently, the Broadcom 5G announcement comes barely a fortnight after the launch of the WiFi Forward consortium  initiative, which is backed by 18 organizations, including Broadcom, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Charter, NCTA, Arris, Motorola, Google and Microsoft. The group is lobbying for more spectrum to wireless delivery. The cable operators plus BrightHouse and Optimum are also involved in the Cable WiFi collaboration, which envisions 200,000 hotspots nationwide.

A version of Broadcom's BCM4354 SoC supports Rezence wireless power technology, which delivers additional "wireless freedom," according the company. All versions feature a full software platform including support for Android, Windows and Chrome-based operating systems. 

Broadcom's chips are already in production.  There's no timetable yet on when they'll get to U.S. homes to accelerate WiFi distribution, or whether that will be before smartphone an tablet users begin enjoying the higher-speed mobile access.

Gary Arlen waxes on digital developments from Arlen Communications (www.Arlencom.com).