Adding Bluetooth low energy to an 802.11ac chip means "extra cost that carmakers might not want to pay," says De Ambroggi, especially since many cars already come with Bluetooth.
Broadcom's Ramsthaler, however, argues that the Bluetooth attachment rate among all the cars sold in the world is only 50 percent today.
Perhaps a more important point to consider is that Bluetooth LE is becoming popular among mobile and wearable devices because it can offer consumers biometric capabilities. Broadcom clearly sees the need for carmakers to keep up with the wearable trend.
"Mobile phones on wheels"
So, how many cars today already have WiFi (based on the existing 802.11 variants) capabilities? IHS pegs the WiFi attachment rate in cars in 2012 at only about 2.5 percent. De Ambroggi, however, sees WiFi as "a very fast growing segment" in cars.
By 2015 and 2016, IHS expects an increase to "something around 20 percent," which includes both OEM and after-market solutions for all 802.11 protocols, according to De Ambroggi.
Broadcom might not seem a likely automotive semiconductor brand, compared to companies like NXP, Infineon, and Freescale. However, Broadcom is building a solid foothold in the automotive market since its key role in developing BroadR-Reach Ethernet technology, which allows multiple in-vehicle systems to simultaneously access information over an unshielded single twisted pair cable.
As the demand for in-car infotainment and telematics increases, Broadcom's Ramsthaler says, "Cars are becoming 'tablets on wheels' and 'mobile phones on wheels.' " The Irvine, Calif., company is embracing these trends.
Broadcom's host of automotive chips include: BroadR-Reach Ethernet Phy and Ethernet switch; NFC; Global Navigation Satellite System; and the latest 802.11ac/Bluetooth low energy combo chip, and Bluetooth/Bluetooth low energy combo chip.