& cplSiteName &

Broadcom Thinks NFC's Time Is Nearing

Craig Matsumoto
12/11/2012
50%
50%

SAN FRANCISCO -- Broadcom Corp. (Nasdaq: BRCM) believes in near-field communications (NFC) and thinks the newly integrated chip it announced Tuesday could help kick the technology into mainstream usage.

The reason has little to do with alleged awesomeness of Broadcom, and more to do with the idea of ubiquity. Even without having NFC on the iPhone.

NFC radio chips can be used in phones, vending machines and cash registers to allow users to tap-to-pay for goods and services. It can also let phones swap information with a touch, as on that one Samsung Corp. Galaxy III commercial shown ad nauseum during the World Series. But the technology has been slow to catch on with most consumers. (See NFC Payments Forecast Scaled Down.)

The turning point could come when NFC arrives in a wide variety of devices including tablets and TVs, Broadcom officials think. Having it in more places -- being able to use the technology with more devices -- will make NFC more useful and more interesting. Gradually, it will make NFC as essential to consumers as Wi-Fi is now, Broadcom argues.

Broadcom officials explained all this during an informal press session Tuesday, where officials discussed the technologies they'll be showcasing at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January.

What makes Broadcom so confident about NFC is its experience with carrier Wi-Fi.

Smartphone OEMs liked the idea of Wi-Fi, but they didn't want to include another chip and another antenna inside their phones. A turning point came when Broadcom released one chip for both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, making the two 2.4GHz technologies share an antenna.

"They were worried about the antennas," says Michael Hurlston, Broadcom's senior vice president of home and wireless networking. "Antennas take up so much space on the phones."

In that case, the resulting chip happened to be as cheap as a standalone Bluetooth chip, so OEMs were almost literally getting Wi-Fi for free. In particular, the iPhone picked up Wi-Fi. And as the technology spread into more hands, the use cases for it widened.

Eventually, carriers that had viewed Wi-Fi as a thief of precious cellular minutes began to see it as a tool to be exploited. "Now we've got the reverse happening, where carriers want us to make it so your phone can switch to Wi-Fi when you get home," Hurlston says. The BCM43341 chip introduced Tuesday combines Bluetooth, an FM radio, Wi-Fi and NFC into one monolithic package (meaning it's fabricated as a single chip, not two or more chips glued together). That's a lot on one chip, but OEMs are already using the first three technologies and badly want NFC, Broadcom officials claimed.

Part of the excitement around NFC comes from the technology's mindlessness. Mohamed Awad, a Broadcom associate product line manager, tapped a smartphone playing a video against a tablet screen, causing the screen to play the video as well. The phone was using Wi-Fi to transmit the video -- a technology called Miracast that will also be in Broadcom's CES portfolio -- but the session was initiated with an NFC tap, without having to tell either device what to do or select where to send the video.

It's that ability to turn multistep processes into no-brainers that has OEMs craving NFC, says Awad. They see in it the potential to change applications in the way that touch screens did.

"You need to think about it as a helper technology, helping the user get the advantage of these other technologies," he says.

For more



— Craig Matsumoto, Managing Editor, Light Reading

(0)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
Featured Video
From The Founder
Light Reading founder Steve Saunders grills Cisco's Roland Acra on how he's bringing automation to life inside the data center.
Flash Poll
Upcoming Live Events
February 26-28, 2018, Santa Clara Convention Center, CA
March 20-22, 2018, Denver Marriott Tech Center
April 4, 2018, The Westin Dallas Downtown, Dallas
May 14-17, 2018, Austin Convention Center
All Upcoming Live Events
Infographics
SmartNICs aren't just about achieving scale. They also have a major impact in reducing CAPEX and OPEX requirements.
Hot Topics
Here's Pai in Your Eye
Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading, 12/11/2017
Verizon's New Fios TV Is No More
Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, 12/12/2017
Ericsson & Samsung to Supply Verizon With Fixed 5G Gear
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 12/11/2017
Cloudy With a Chance of Automation: Telecom in 2018
Iain Morris, News Editor, 12/12/2017
Juniper Turns Contrail Into a Platform for Multicloud
Craig Matsumoto, Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading, 12/12/2017
Animals with Phones
Don't Fall Asleep on the Job! Click Here
Live Digital Audio

Understanding the full experience of women in technology requires starting at the collegiate level (or sooner) and studying the technologies women are involved with, company cultures they're part of and personal experiences of individuals.

During this WiC radio show, we will talk with Nicole Engelbert, the director of Research & Analysis for Ovum Technology and a 23-year telecom industry veteran, about her experiences and perspectives on women in tech. Engelbert covers infrastructure, applications and industries for Ovum, but she is also involved in the research firm's higher education team and has helped colleges and universities globally leverage technology as a strategy for improving recruitment, retention and graduation performance.

She will share her unique insight into the collegiate level, where women pursuing engineering and STEM-related degrees is dwindling. Engelbert will also reveal new, original Ovum research on the topics of artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, security and augmented reality, as well as discuss what each of those technologies might mean for women in our field. As always, we'll also leave plenty of time to answer all your questions live on the air and chat board.

Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed