Broadcom Battles Interference

Broadcom tries to steal a march on rival Intel with software to make Bluetooth and 802.11 play nice

November 17, 2003

2 Min Read
Broadcom Battles Interference

Broadcom Corp. (Nasdaq: BRCM) has announced today software that will allow Bluetooth and wireless LAN to coexist on the same frequency, just weeks after silicon rival Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) acquired the assets of startup Mobilian for similar technology (see Broadcom Pushes WLAN/Bluetooth Harmony and Intel Acquires Mobilian).

The basic problem that both companies are trying to solve is one of interference. Bluetooth and the b and g variants of the 802.11 wireless LAN standard all use 2.4GHz radios. So, if Bluetooth and 802.11 chips are used in close proximity -- in a PDA or laptop chipset, for instance -- the competing transmissions can overlap and cause interference and signal degradation, making connecting wirelessly more difficult whichever standard is used.

Broadcom is trying to overcome this challenge by using software called "InConcert" in its "Blutonium" Bluetooth firmware and its "OneDriver" wireless LAN driver to synchronize transmissions between the two systems to minimize collisions and interference. It is not clear yet if this software scheduling mechanism will have any effect on the wireless data transfer performance of either system.

The technology assets that Intel recently acquired from Mobilian gives the silicon sumo access to the firm’s TrueRadio technology, which implements a similar radio synchronization technology but at the chip level rather than in software, an approach that Mobilian claimed made for better wireless performance. However, although Intel says that the defunct startup was the first to introduce a combined Bluetooth and wireless LAN chipset, analysts that Unstrung spoke to about Mobilian said that they had seen little in the way of actual technology from the company.

Solving the WLAN/Bluetooth interference problem is an important issue for the chipmakers, as they are fiercely competing to sell wireless chips to laptop, cellphone, and PDA manufacturers. Anything that is seen to to give one a technological edge over the other could be important in this battle.

Broadcom says its InConcert software will start to be implemented in its products early next year. Intel has so far given no timeframe for when it will start to introduce products based on the Mobilian technology.

— Dan Jones, Senior Editor, Unstrung

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