Broadcom, Marvell unveil embedded Wi-Fi platforms

Jan. 12, 2009
January 12, 2009 -- At the 2009 International CES, Broadcom introduced a single-chip Wi-Fi router platform; the Broadcom BCM5356 can be used to build entry-level Wi-Fi routers that provide the speed and reliability of higher-end models, says the company. Also at the show, Marvell unveiled its 88W8786, an 802.11n single stream Wi-Fi platform designed for use in a broad range of mainstream consumer devices.

January 12, 2009 -- At the 2009 International CES, Broadcom introduced a single-chip Wi-Fi router platform; the BCM5356 can be used to build entry-level Wi-Fi routers that provide the speed and reliability of higher-end models, says the company.

According to Broadcom, with higher wireless throughput and twice the range of comparable routers, products based on the new chip will allow consumers to wirelessly transfer digital video between PCs, TVs and set-top boxes (STBs) in different rooms, stream music to remote speakers, and send photos to wireless printers or digital picture frames. The chip is also optimized with features that reduce power consumption, providing energy conscious consumers with a "green" home networking alternative.

The BCM5356 chip enables extremely small wireless LAN (WLAN) router designs and can reduce the total system cost by up to 33 percent versus previous 802.11g designs, claims the company. The chip integrates an 802.11 media access controller (MAC) and baseband, a 2.4 GHz radio, a 333 MHz MIPS 74K CPU core, a 5-port Fast Ethernet switch and physical layer (PHY) device, and several options for system memory interfaces. The Wi-Fi chip also integrates a highly efficient CMOS power amplifier that has shipped in millions of devices and provides the same level of output power as solutions with external power amplifiers.

Broadcom says the BCM5356 enables Wi-Fi vendors to deliver entry-level routers with throughput and range that are similar to more expensive 802.11n routers. Consumers will soon use these routers to transfer a 30-minute HD video file in approximately 2.5 minutes, instead of using a low-end 802.11g router to transfer that file in ten minutes within a smaller coverage radius, claims the company.

The BCM5356 leverages elements of the new 802.11n standard to achieve data rates of up to 150 Megabits per second (Mbps) over a single antenna (when connected to an 802.11n device). It features a high performance processing core that delivers wireless throughput in excess of 100 Mbps, with spare cycles that allow the processor to perform other CPU-intensive applications. The BCM5356 solution also offers Broadcom's Accelerange technology, which uses space time block coding (STBC), enhanced output power, and a superior radio and digital architecture to provide more robust connections in the far corners of a home. STBC eliminates the "cold spots" that often plague legacy products, and improves the coverage of single-stream Wi-Fi devices such as mobile phones based on Broadcom's new BCM4329 Wi-Fi/Bluetooth/ FM solution.

Due to its extreme integration, the BCM5356 enables manufacturers to build products that appeal to environmentally-conscious Wi-Fi users. Designed using 65 nanometer (nm) CMOS process technology, the BCM5356 consumes 25 percent less power of previous 802.11g solutions. It also features a unique "Green Wi-Fi Mode" that reduces a router's overall power consumption by dynamically adjusting system parameters, based on the router's typical usage patterns. In addition to saving power, the BCM5356 decreases the amount of metal and ceramic material that is used to build a Wi-Fi router. It not only requires fewer components and interconnects, but also enables the use of 2-layer printed circuit board (PCB), rather than the typical 4-layer PCBs.

The chip leverages the company's OneDriver software to provide a consistent set of features that deliver superior performance, ease-of-use and security. OneDriver software also includes support for Linux, VxWorks and eCos operating systems.

"Routers based on the BCM5356 will allow Wi-Fi users to upgrade the wireless experience throughout their home without breaking the bank," said Satish Ganesan, product manager for Broadcom's WLAN line of business. "Broadcom continues to drive down the cost of retail Wi-Fi products by achieving new levels of silicon and system integration. At the same time, we are raising the performance bar to support the most demanding wireless applications in the most cost-effective way."

The new Wi-Fi router chip and turnkey BCM95356SSNR reference design are now sampling to early access customers with volume production scheduled for Q1 of 2009. Pricing is available upon request.

Single stream 802.11n device from Marvell targets consumer embedded Wi-Fi apps

Also at CES 2009, Marvell, a supplier of storage, communications and consumer silicon platforms, introduced the Marvell 88W8786, an 802.11n single stream Wi-Fi solution designed for a broad range of mainstream consumer devices. With this technology, Marvell aims to make high-performance 802.11n Wi-Fi capability available to more consumer electronics manufacturers of digital cameras, printers, gaming platforms and more, by lowering costs, reducing power consumption and decreasing the silicon footprint.

The Marvell 88W8786 is designed to support bit rates up to 150 Mbps and to support STBC and various aggregation schemes for increased range and robustness, providing high throughput. By leveraging Marvell's existing software base and industry leading expertise in embedded-WLAN, Marvell expects that the transition to its new 802.11n single stream technology will be seamless for manufacturers that are already using 802.11g and even multiple stream 802.11n.

"Marvell expects the majority of the industry to move to 802.11n and with the 88W8786 we believe we have created an affordable, embedded product offering with superior range and throughput, low power consumption and a small footprint as compared to current 802.11n solutions," says Dr. Partho Mishra, vice president and general manager, Embedded and Emerging Business Unit, Communications and Consumer Business Group at Marvell. "Our customers have traditionally selected Marvell embedded Wi-Fi solutions because they combine great performance with extremely low power consumption. With the Marvell 88W8786, we believe manufacturers will be able to embed the newest Wi-Fi technology in devices for cost-sensitive market segments."

The Marvell 88W8786 has been sampling with multiple customers since mid 2008, with end products currently expected to be in production in Q1 2009..

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