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Tech Roundup: Broadcom & VLSI

This week's tech roundup sees chipmakers working on even smaller combo chipsets -- want Bluetooth and FM radio with that order of WiFi? While Verizon Wireless finally unveils its CDMA Rev. A game; along with other tasty wireless news nuggets.

Radio WiFi: Chipmaker Broadcom Corp. (Nasdaq: BRCM) is claiming a first with a chipset that combines Bluetooth, WiFi, and an FM radio receiver all on piece of silicon.

The firm claims that "low-power benefits" enabled by such very large-scale integration will help reduce the cost and improve the battery life of smartphones, MP3 players, and other devices. The firm says its new BCM4325 system-on-a-chip product can deliver power consumption up to 40 percent lower than competitive chipsets.

Broadcom's new silicon cuts across several different product categories. The firm's rivals in the cellphone market include Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) and Texas Instruments Inc. (NYSE: TXN). Atheros Communications Inc. (Nasdaq: ATHR) and Marvell Technology Group Ltd. (Nasdaq: MRVL) face off against the firms in the WiFi market.

RadioFrame's Femto Sell: Cellular picocell coverage specialist RadioFrame Networks Inc. is going even smaller by plotting a move into the home base station market later this year. (See Base Stations Come Home.)

The company already produces picocells for improving GSM and UMTS wireless coverage in offices, campuses, and convention centers. The femtocell product portfolio will initially include separate 2G and 3G base stations that will become available in the third quarter of 2007. The firm is planning a combined 2G/3G unit in the fourth quarter of 2007.

RadioFrame is promising that its new products will be "low-cost hardware that is easy to implement." The firm is best known in the U.S. for working with Nextel on cellular/WiFi coverage for enterprise customers. (See Nextel Goes Indoors.)

Verizon's 'A' Game: Number two U.S. cellular operator Verizon Wireless has finally unveiled its faster CDMA 3G network upgrade.

It's been an open secret for a while that the operator has been working on a Revision A upgrade to its network. Sierra Wireless Inc. (Nasdaq: SWIR; Toronto: SW) even announced back in December that it had compatible PC cards ready for the network. (See Verizon's Rev A Gets Carded.)

The service will initially be offered in the Boston area, Chicagoland, parts of Florida, Utah, and Richmond, Va. The operator is promising typical download speeds of 450-800 kbit/s and uploads of 300-400 kbit/s.

Verizon is following in the footsteps of CDMA rival Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) with the Rev. A launch -- Sprint started rolling out the technology last year. Faster data downloads have become more important to operators of late as they have actually started to see increased revenues from users downloading email, music, and video clips.

Cisco Plays Tag: Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) has deepened its relationship with WiFi RFID vendor AeroScout as the pair unveil a joint system for tracking items in enterprise markets.

The system uses 802.11b/g access points to find and trace AeroScout's active RFID tags and track items in real time. The system also uses the Cisco 2700 Series Wireless Location Appliance, which triangulates the position of the tags according to wireless signal strengh from the APs.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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