As a general rule, if you want to know what’s coming in consumer video gadgetry, watch the chip guys. And if this week’s 3GSM World Congress in Barcelona is any indication, it’s the cell phone that’s going to give portable media players the fastest chase to consumers.
Broadcom Corp., which makes the chip sets used in many modems, digital set-tops, and voice MTAs installed by cable operators, was all over 3GSM this year, cramming newsroom e-mail boxes with word of its work. The common thread: Cell phones that can do lots of other things.
The big news from Broadcom came via one of those “fun facts” that may not be common knowledge to those not steeped in the cellular industry: Sales of handsets are outpacing network capacity. So far, Broadcom said, service providers have responded by ratcheting down throughput to connected devices, so as to accommodate the new handsets. Impact: More frequent run-ins with choppy or garbled voice quality.
Broadcom’s remedy: M-Stream, a secret sauce of advanced error correction techniques that enables a 2-3 dB improvement in signal-to-noise ratios on cellular networks. Translation: Double the network capacity, while maintaining voice quality on calls.
A quick roundup of Broadcom’s press release abundanza:
• Further evidence that video is coming soon to a cell phone near you: Broadcom’s line of video chips for cell phones now supports the VC-1 advanced compression codec, and popularized by Windows Media Video. Service target: Broadcast video on cell phones.
• Its video-capable chips will be used inside mobile phones made by Chinese manufacturer TCL (for the Chinese market)
• Freescale Semiconductor will put Broadcom’s Bluetooth capability into Freescale’s baseband processors. This one was targeted at adding Bluetooth into more cell phones.
• In the New Products category, Broadcom unveiled its “CellAirity” platform, a hardware/software combo targeted at the 2G/3G wireless community. That means support for voice, video recording/playback, video phone, and “packet-based services.” Takers get a custom bundle, of sorts, of existing Broadcom wireless circuits, all of which are in production and shipping now.
Broadcom didn’t say how much the CellAirity combo costs. A related release, however, submits that CellAirity enables a $100 total cost to build a 3G handset — 3G features at 2G pricing.
And it wouldn’t be a Broadcom press abundanza without a “world’s first” – a single chip that does both Bluetooth and FM radio. Handsets that play FM stations are increasingly popular in Europe, the company said. That chip is sampling to “early access partners.”