Broadcom has unveiled a new "phone on a chip" that appears destined for deployment in the next generation of high-speed mobile handsets. Code-named Zeus, the single-chip technology integrates a wide variety of mobile-phone features and functions, including Bluetooth, an FM radio, and the requisite interfaces for the handset's display and image sensor.
"On top of that, we've integrated the full spectrum of RF technology, replacing technology that consumes more power and takes up board space," said Broadcom senior vice president Yossi Cohen. "This alone, even without the other functionality, has never been done by our competitors."
The chip's high level of integration will dramatically reduce the component count for handset designs, resulting in smaller printed circuit boards that are about "one-sixth the size of what is currently required to implement the same functionality today," Cohen said. This will leave manufacturers with plenty of room for pairing Zeus with other advanced technologies, he explained.
For example, Broadcom's new VideoCore-3 offering "will enable mobile phone users to take high-definition videos and not only play them back but also record them," Cohen said. VideoCore-3 handsets also will be able to play back a full six hours of high-definition video off of a single standard battery charge, "and you could do this on a mobile phone screen or use the phone's 'TV Out' to play it on a plasma TV," Cohen added.
Moreover, handsets integrating VideoCore-3 will be able "to take high-quality 12-megapixel images or camera shots and also play high-performance 3D games," Cohen noted. "Those capabilities exist today in different devices and different form factors," he said, but never before was it possible to perform such features "at power levels that could support mobile phone functionality."
Lightning Fast Connections
Cohen went on to say that although Wi-Fi and GPS have not been integrated directly onto Zeus, handset manufacturers will have the option of pairing Zeus with the company's dedicated Wi-Fi and GPS chips. "We decided to keep those functions external and let our customers decide which model to add these to," Cohen said.
The FM technology onboard Zeus will enable users not only to listen to FM radio stations on their mobile phones but also to send music tracks stored on the phone to radios and home stereo systems for playback, Cohen said. Last but not least, Zeus incorporates Broadcom's latest interference-cancellation technologies, which are designed to improve cellular handset reception and voice quality, ultimately resulting in fewer dropped calls.
Broadcom's new chip is fully compatible with all four of the high-speed cellular network systems available today (HSDPA, HSUPA, WCDMA, and EDGE). Zeus-enabled handsets will therefore be able to downlink content at speeds of up to 7.2 Mbps as well as uplink multimedia content at speeds of up to 5.8 Mbps, Cohen said.
However, no one should expect to see any phones based on Zeus hitting the marketplace soon. "A typical design cycle in the mobile-phone industry is 18 months," Cohen explained. Cohen's expectation is for the device to reach handset users "in the 2009 time frame."
Image credit: Product screenshots by Wajbety via Google Play.