Broadcom this week announced a new low-cost wireless LAN solution that is 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 BroadcomBCM4312 chip integrates an 802.11 MAC, baseband processor, and a dual-band radio (2.4 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 solutions 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.”

And that threshold could be 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 $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