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Broadcom offers WiFi as plug in to any device


Published: 18 November, 2011


We listen to announcements like the one this week from Quantenna, coming first to 802.11ac, and wonder if the WiFi giants such as Broadcom have lost the plot, but of course they are taking their huge lead in WiFi chips and thinking yet bigger still. If the world is going to have 15 billion new fixed and wireless internet connections over the next 5 years to go with the 9 billion it already has, then what better route to go than trying to steal ALL or MOST of them in one go.

Fixed broadband already terminates in almost every instance in WiFi, and anything cellular broadband can do, WiFi can have a stab at. So Broadcom plans to make the machine to machine revolution purely a business for Wifi. If Broadcom can control a home hub for all forms of connected devices - whether they are health monitors, washing machines or air conditioners or sensors for fitness or security - then it can dictate the revenues for the entire connected home. That's between 5 and 10 WiFi chips per home.

At least that's the reasoning behind its latest move designed to attract equipment vendors of unconnected devices everywhere to make the move into the connected world through Broadcom chips. Broadcom calls the architecture it has invented WICED (pronounced Wicked from Wireless Internet Connectivity for Embedded Devices) and the new module makes the development effort for device makers like falling off a log. It is built around the existing Broadcom BCM4319 wireless baseband and uses a specially designed "self-hosted" Wi-Fi networking library and software stack. WICED modules allow the addition of WiFi via a simple serial port.

It gives Broadcom a platform to go out and sell to equipment manufacturers who want their device to be connected. It is particular aimed at devices which already have their own microcontroller, but no connectivity.

The Broadcom name in WiFi is so strong that it may just nail down enough device makers that it builds up an inexorable head of steam, before cellular operators realize what's hit them, and all of that traffic which cellular players are dreaming of in connected devices has gone the way of a chip maker. Not that idea IS wicked.

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