Semiconductor manufacturer Broadcom announced a single-chip solution that is expected to lower the cost of 802.11n manufacturing by as much as 40% compared to products currently using the nascent technology.

Broadcom claims the BCM4322 will be the world's first chip that integrates all elements — including power amplifiers — of an 802.11n wireless local area network subsystem on a single silicon die. The chip is expected to be available during the first quarter of 2008.

Broadcom's existing 802.11n solution includes a 130 nm controller chip, a 180 nm radio chip and external power amplifiers, said Kevin Mukai, the company's senior product line manager who focuses on 802.11 products. The BCM4322 integrates these functions in a 65 nm chip, resulting in a 50% reduction in footprint, a 50% reduction in power consumption and lower cost.

“To give you an idea, most implementations of this solution ultimately end up in the $15 to $17 range,” Mukai said. “When our previous generation came out, they started out in the market at $30. It's not where [an 802.11g solution] is, but it's closing the gap. I think we're on a trajectory here to make further strides in that [price] arena.”

While costing more, 802.11n technology leverages multiple transceivers to deliver speeds that are 10 times greater than 802.11g, reaching peak data rates of 200 Mb/s — enough throughput to support video applications.

Indeed, single-chip solutions will help reduce the cost of wireless systems by placing external components internally, said Philip Solis, a principal analyst for ABI Research.

“Single-chip design is smaller and can be more easily integrated into smaller handheld devices,” Solis said. “That helps such products shift from 802.11g to 802.11n a little faster, and then it will reduce a device's cost.”

In addition, 802.11n technology is crucial to solving some of the issues with municipal wireless networks, including coverage dead spots, Solis said, adding that municipalities, in an effort to reduce costs, space out access points so fewer are needed. The introduction of single-chip 802.11n will extend the communication range to reduce dead spots without the need for additional access points, according to Solis.

Other benefits include high-throughput — so more applications can be run, such as high-definition video — and greater range. For instance, public-safety agencies that operate surveillance systems would be able to place cameras in discrete locations farther away from high-crime areas and still have the necessary coverage to catch criminal activity in real-time.

“It would help transmit high-resolution and sharper video to police officers,” Solis said.

In the consumer market, industry experts have predicted that 802.11n will be used to distribute video throughout the home — for example, allowing the delivery of stored content from a DVR in one room to a TV located in another room. This capability also could prove useful to public safety, which has been searching for an efficient way to transfer recorded video from vehicles into a public-safety entity's network.