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TI packs seven radios into one chip

Claims it can still preserve battery life, because some tasks are offloaded from the processor to a controller

By CAROLINE GABRIEL

Published: 13 February, 2012

READ MORE: Texas Instruments | Semiconductor | NFC

Packing numerous radios into a chip while keeping power consumption low is one of the key challenges of mobile device design, and Texas Instruments is the latest to up the ante against arch-rivals in this field, Broadcom and Marvell. It has crammed Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, FM, NFC, GPS and even the Russian satellite system Glonass and the personal area network sensor, ANT+, into one fat package, called WiLink 8.0. Despite having most of the alphabet in one chip, it claims that, by offloading some tasks to a controller, it will preserve acceptable battery life.

Like many players in the ARM-based mobile chip space, TI has been investing significant effort in reducing power consumption by moving tasks off the main processor to lower power chips - as epitomized in ARM's new Big.little architecture. On the connectivity side, TI is doing this with a controller which can automatically take over functions such as authenticating an NFC transaction via SIM, or handling location data from Wi-Fi or GPS (or Glonass). This saves walking the application processor for these purposes, saving on power.


It is notable that TI is making a bet on NFC, which remains relatively rare in smartphones despite rising interest in the technology for payments and data exchange. WiLink 8.0 can plug into TI's OMAP5 app processor (or third party alternatives) and claims to reduce the cost of deploying NFC for hesitant phonemakers, by integrating it so tightly. "Today's NFC controllers are really big because most of the controllers are built on old processes, not standardized for the mobile environment," David Lacinski, strategic marketing manager for TI Wireless Connectivity Solutions, told PCMag. "This takes the controller out of the equation and integrates it into the silicon; it's virtually cost-free."

The chip comes with an OMAP5 reference platform and products using it are expected around midyear.

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