Broadcom announced a new low-cost wireless LAN solution designed to let manufacturers build smaller, more affordable Wi-Fi products, including products that operate in the 4.9 GHz band dedicated for public-safety use.

The Broadcom BCM4312 chip integrates an 802.11 MAC, baseband processor and a dual-band radio (2.4 GHz and 5 GHz) onto a single silicon die, primarily for use in PC-based and access-point products. The solution boasts a 40% reduction in footprint and consumes half the power of previous Broadcom offerings at 25% less cost, said Mike Hurlston, vice president and general manager of Broadcom's home and wireless business unit.

“It is really lowering the cost of Wi-Fi ownership. What we're trying to do is make Wi-Fi more pervasive,” Hurlston said. “If we can drive below a $5 cost-of-ownership, then we think the adoption rate increases exponentially.”

That could happen soon. With the BCM4312 currently at a cost of $5.50 to $6.50, Hurlston said he believes the $5 threshold will be passed early in 2008. “Once it crosses into the $5 range, I don't think we'll see such precipitous price drops,” he said.

While the BCM4312 solution was designed to operate primarily in 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz unlicensed products, it also will work in products operating in the 4.9 GHz band reserved for public safety, Hurlston said.

“We've designed it to work in that band, specifically because we think that [public-safety] market is going to be something that happens,” he said.