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Broadcom 40nm chip enables HD handsets

Posted: 22 Dec 2009     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Broadcom 40nm  media processor  HD video handset  Wi-Fi 

Broadcom Corp. announced at the company's annual meeting with Wall Street analysts that it is sampling its first 40nm chip, a cell phone media processor capable of recording full 1080-progressive high-definition video. The company claimed to be poised for a return to profitable growth that will outpace its markets.

Supporting its financial claims, Broadcom said it expects revenues up five per cent over its previous quarter and gross margins twice as high as previously projected, thanks to an uptick in demand for its broadband and enterprise networking chips. It had previously estimated flat sales over the prior quarter.

Through the recession Broadcom laid off about three per cent of staff compared to competitors that let go as many as ten per cent, said Eric Brandt, Broadcom's chief financial officer. He estimated the company was about three per cent down in sales overall for the year compared to 14 per cent for the chip sector.

"We conclude we gained market share," said Brandt.

Analysts such as Mark McKechnie of Broadpoint AmTech discounted the upgraded forecast. In a statement, McKechnie noted Broadcom's original projection was conservative. Companies in similar markets including Atheros, Intel, Marvell and Texas Instruments have recently guided projections up from two to 12 per cent for the quarter, he added.

Separately, Broadcom executives said they expect new digital TVs with integrated Wi-Fi at next month's Consumer Electronics Show. Models capable of stereo 3D graphics could follow next year for as little as Rs.4674.19 ($100) in additional component costs, they added.

The company also announced an integrated chip to drive down costs of Blu-ray disc players and an ARM11-based device for portable media players.

HD cell phones
The star of the day was Broadcom's VideoCore IV, the BCM2763, packs 1080p video recording and playback, a 20Mpixel digital camera and Gpixel graphics into the power envelope of a cell phone. It consumes 490mW while encoding video at H.264 High Profile rates and 160mW for 1080p playback.

Supplied with enough memory, the chip can support up to six hours of full HD video recording and up to 12 hours of HD playback, Broadcom said. It is an upgrade of an existing 65nm device that supports 720p resolution video.

"We think phones will start to be HD camcorders," said Scott Bibaud, general manager of Broadcom's mobile group.

He was less bullish on the transition to next-generation Long Term Evolution which will upgrade the bandwidth of cellular nets to handle HD video transfers. "LTE doesn't get interesting until 2012, and by interesting I mean 5 crore (50 million) units/year," he said.

The VideoCore IV uses a low-power 40nm process. Broadcom also taped out in 2009 an unannounced but fully functional Ethernet chip using a 40nm general purpose process, said Neil Kim, VP of operations and central engineering at the company.

"It is extremely challenging because they are two distinct processes," said Kim, noting the company has 5,000 standard cells and 1,444 analogue and RF cores already in its 40nm silicon library. "This will raise the barrier to entry for our competitors getting into 40nm," he said.

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