Unique GNSS chip architecture
Broadcom hopes to set itself apart from its competitors by leveraging the company's unique GNSS chip architecture, which is capable of receiving signals from all major navigation bands simultaneously. The architecture allows the chip to do so without having to hop different navigation bands, or reconfigure itself for each constellation.
The tri-band tuner designed into Broadcom's architecture lets the chip calculate the best position data based on measurements from any of 88 satellites available in the sky. Further, it delivers satellite assistance data to the device and provides "an initial fix time within seconds, instead of the minutes that may be required to receive orbit data from the satellites themselves," according to Broadcom.
As Asia's share of global mobile phones continues to increase (and smartphone users' demands for location and mapping continue to rise), system vendors are in search of the best way to implement multi-constellation GNSS capabilities, including China's BeiDou.
They can do so either by adopting a standalone GNSS chip from companies such as Broadcom, or leveraging Qualcomm's Snapdragon processor -- an apps processor already integrated with GPU, DSP, basebands, and Qualcomm's own GNSS location technology that combines multiple location services into a single navigation system.
Samsung's Galaxy Note 3, for example, has chosen the latter, according to Qualcomm.
[However, Samsung tends to mix and match different chip solutions for different versions of its Galaxy Note 3. For example, the Korean giant, in the past, designed in Broadcom's previous generation GNSS chip for some versions of Galaxy Note 3, while it also used Qualcomm's Snapdragon in others.]
Powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor (MSM8974), the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 (WCDMA 3G version SM-N9006 and TD-LTE 4G version SM-N9008V) uses "the industry's first, integrated tri-band location platform to provide more accurate and responsive location data to mobile users," according to Qualcomm. It processes signals concurrently from multiple satellite networks. With this capability, users should have a better experience using their location-based services, even in the most challenging of environments, Qualcomm contends.
Broadcom, however, is betting that not every smartphone vendor wants to lock its mobile products into the same processor (i.e., Qualcomm's Snapdragon) its competitors are using.
"Customers can marry our GNSS chip with other chip vendors' mobile platform architecture," says Awad. "And they can use it not just for smartphones but also for a wide range of consumer devices" including wearables, personal media players, and personal navigation systems.
Broadcom is sampling the BCM47531 now, while the chip will be designed into mobile devices in early 2014, according to the company.
— Junko Yoshida, Chief International Correspondent, EE Times