updated 03:10 pm EDT, Mon October 15, 2007
Broadcom All-in-One 3G
Communications chipmaker Broadcom today revealed that it had developed the BCM21551, the first major cellphone processor to include both 3G cellular data access as well as other technologies in a single chip. The chip is ready for current and near-future mobile Internet access with connections to HSDPA networks (such as AT&T, Rogers, and some European networks) peaking at 7.2Mbps in ideal downloads, and the fast-upload HSUPA at up to 5.8Mbps; new, however, are the inclusion of a radio receiver for picking up calls as well as an FM radio tuner and an integrated Bluetooth module. These give any future phone using the chip true high-speed Internet connections without requiring a separate processor and the increased size or reduced battery life that often comes with the extra hardware, Broadcom says. Legacy access to GPRS, EDGE, and other legacy connections are also built in.
The hardware is capable of processing images from up to a 5-megapixel camera sensor by itself and standard-resolution video up to 30 frames per second with TV output, allowing some devices to avoid a dedicated media CPU altogether. The architecture is also designed to work with Broadcom's VideoCore III chips and other company processors if phone makers need 3D graphics, HD video, Wi-Fi, or other features that have yet to fit inside a single processor. Samples are being sent out to handset makers today, with mass-produced chips set to sell at $23 each -- roughly half the price of a multi-chip design, according to the company.
No manufacturers have been named, though the GSM foundation of the chip favors companies whose phone lineups are dominated by the standard, such as Nokia or Sony-Ericsson. The Broadcom development may also address a key complaint of Apple chief executive Steve Jobs, who in a European press conference said that 3G iPhones were held back primarily because of the poor battery life of current chipsets. Most 3G phones top at three hours of battery life when using the technology for enhanced calls or data versus the eight hours of calls for slower, EDGE-only hardware. However, Apple currently uses Infineon hardware and would likely have to switch suppliers entirely to use the Broadcom development in the iPhone.