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Chipmaker Broadcom today launched a 802.11ac standard WiFi chip, the BCM43460, said to be the world’s first “5G” WiFi system-on-chip. Broadcom says it’s 3x faster and 6x more power efficient than previous generation 802.11n solutions. It’s interoperable with legacy 802.11 technologies, and is designed to address growing demand for Gigabit speeds in enterprise.

The dual-band (2.4 and 5 GHz) IEEE 802.11ac draft 3 x 3 compliant MAC/PHY/Radio supports 3 x 3 antennas for date rates up to 1.3 Gbps, with embedded hardware acceleration. The BCM43460 is now sampling with production volume slated for the second half of 2012. It’s expected to show up in wireless routers by the end of the year.

New features include Broadcom’s transmit beam-forming technology which significantly extends the range, coverage and network efficiency, particularly in single antenna devices such as smartphones.

The 2.4/5 GHz single-chip MAC/PHY/Radio is designed for Enterprise and Carrier class access points and business class routers. Broadcom says it combines silicon and networking software into a highly integrated, low power enterprise WLAN solution with the same network management, scalability, security, performance and cost advantages of a wired network.

Companies like Redpipe, Quantenna, and Broadcom, introduced 802.11ac components at CES, but official 802.11ac gear is not expected to begin shipping until the latter half of 2012, after the standard is finalized.

The new 802.11ac standard utilizes the 5 GHz band exclusively and is 3-4 times faster by ganging multiple 20 MHz channels together.

The 802.11ac draft, also known as 802.11 VHT (Very High Throughput), uses the existing 5 GHz Wi-Fi band with wide 80 MHz or 160 MHz channels, improved modulation, and simultaneous multi-user MIMO for throughputs above 1 Gbps.

In other chip news, Texas Instruments has introduced a new WiLink 8.0 chip that makes NFC much easier by plugging into TI’s upcoming OMAP5 chipset, combining Wi-Fi 802.11n, GPS/Glonass, NFC, Bluetooth and FM onto a single small chip using a 45nm process.

“Today’s [NFC] controllers are really big because most of the controllers are built on old processes. This takes the controller out of the equation and integrates it into the silicon; it’s virtually cost-free,” said David Lacinski, strategic marketing manager for TI Wireless Connectivity Solutions.

It also supports TI’s OMAP4 chipsets, used in the Motorola Droid Razr, Razr Maxx, and Droid 4. Samsung, HTC, Nokia, and RIM all have NFC-enabled phones currently on the market.

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