Broadcom Chills on Do-It-All Chip

Touting concern over 802.11a's market potential, WLAN chipmaker poo-poos single-chip multimode products

October 13, 2004

2 Min Read
Broadcom Chills on Do-It-All Chip

Wireless LAN chipmaker Broadcom Corp. (Nasdaq: BRCM) appears in no hurry to follow rival Atheros Communications Inc. (Nasdaq: ATHR) into the single-chip 802.11 a/b/g market.

On Monday Atheros unveiled what it claims is the industry's first single-chip 802.11 a/b/g product – dubbed AR5006X – that supports both 2.4GHz and 5GHz capabilities. The chip is slated for volume production in the fourth quarter of this year (see Atheros Touts Multimode Chip).

Analysts were quick to praise the company's move. "This is one of the most impressive and important announcements in the history of wireless LANs," gushed Craig Mathias, principal at analyst and consulting firm Farpoint Group, in an Atheros company statement. "And with essentially the same performance as two-chip designs, we expect the AR5006X to have a huge impact on the Wi-Fi market overall."

Broadcom, naturally, is less convinced, claiming that market demand for 802.11a (54 Mbit/s over 5GHz) remains unproven.

"We don't see much demand for 802.11a," says Gordon Lindsay, European product line manager. "That's what's stopped us doing anything like that. Nobody's actually asked us for it."

"Although it will get attention, we don't expect the actual [Atheros] product will have significant impact on the market," adds Broadcom spokesman Henry Rael. "We believe that a/b/g is an important niche technology, but according to the research company NPD Group, it currently represents only about 1 percent of U.S. retail shipments."

Rael says Broadcom is keen to turn its attention to future wireless LAN standards. "The really big growth opportunity for dual-band solutions will be for higher-performance products, most notably 802.11n, when that standard is ready" (see 802.11n Set to Reign and 802.11n Slapfest Ahead).

One vendor that definitely won't be moving into the single-chip 802.11 a/b/g space is Agere Systems Inc. (NYSE: AGR.A). Earlier this week Unstrung revealed the company is to pull the plug on "development of new 802.11x products" (see Agere Quits 802.11).

— Justin Springham, Senior Editor, Europe, Unstrung

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