SAN FRANCISCO--At Computex this week, Marvell Technology Group Ltd. announced its version of an 802.11ac combination radio chip with both near field communications (NFC) and Bluetooth 4.0.
The Avastar 88W8897 is described as a 2x2 combination radio chip which also sports mobile multiple input multiple output (MIMO), transmit beamforming and support for the Wi-Fi CERTIFIED Miracast audio and video streaming technology(once it becomes available).
Miracast lets users stream between devices from their ultrabook or tablet to the big screen in HD (at 5 GHz), while simultaneously surfing the Internet without losing the connection in 2.4 GHz. Will Strauss of Forward Concepts called it the most important "potential" feature in the combination.
The chip seems to have been designed specifically with ultrabooks, tablets, gaming consoles and smart TVs in mind, and is also the first 802.11ac enabled chip to offer NFC, which allows contactless payment amongst other things.
Using the new 802.11ac means the 88W8897 chip should also be able to deliver up to 867 Mbps of throughput, for much smoother streaming, downloading and uploading.
Marvell is also looking towards the launch of Windows 8 and, as such, has built in a couple of features to comply with Microsoft’s messaging, such as “always on, always connected” and a full Wi-Fi offload option.
This combination chip, of course, is just one of many 802.11ac offerings that will be released by SoC makers over the coming months, with both Broadcom Corp. and Qualcomm Inc. due to release their own versions within the next six months.
IMS Research has predicted some 400 million 802.11ac devices will ship in 2016.
“What’s somewhat interesting about this chip is it has NFC embedded with all the other wireless stuff,” said Jack Gold of Gold Associates.
NFC is seen as a burgeoning trend in the tech device space, with Gartner recently predicting that shipments of NFC chipsets will exceed 100 million units in 2012.
Gold said he believed the chip to be targeted at larger systems (not phones) where MIMO could help with bandwidth improvements, but said that for tablets vendors would ultimately be looking for a fully integrated one chip solution which included all the RF, but also the ARM processor.
“That is why Qualcomm is working so hard to put the Atheros stuff on a single SoC," Gold said. He added that Nvida, which acquired baseband chip vendor Icera Inc. last year, and Intel Corp., which bought Infineon AG's former wireless chip division last year, are moving in the same direction.
Overall, the chip seems like a solid interim step until chipmakers get a complete SoC for both processor and radios all together in one package.
“That’s probably still a year or two away, but it will be coming,” said Gold.
Once that happens, devices will really be able to benefit from lower build of material costs and longer battery life, with smaller, thinner chassis also a possibility.