Two networks, one smartphone

Broadcom’s new Wi-Fi chip turns your phone into an IoT hub

At Mobile World Congress, Broadcom released a new chipset designed to bring Wi-Fi’s speediest technology, 802.11ac, into smartphones. What makes this particular chipset stand out is that it’s able to support simultaneous connections over both of Wi-Fi’s bands (2.4 and 5 GHz).

Simultaneous dual band has become fairly common in high-end routers, but it’s never really made its way into mobile devices because it requires two Wi-Fi antennas to maintain dual connections. But [company]Broadcom[/company] has also been paving the way for dual-antenna, or MIMO, technology in high-end handsets.

Broadcom’s press release played up the fact that accessing two networks at the same time would produce some pretty big boosts in speeds for heavy bandwidth consumers. But when I spoke with David Recker, Broadcom senior director for wireless connectivity, he pointed that there’s an even bigger implication here. This new modem will help change the role of the smartphone in the wireless network from that of a mere client to that of a network controlling hub.

While our phones can use Wi-Fi to connect directly to other devices such as wearables or home appliances, they can’t do so while maintaining their own uninterrupted connection to a Wi-Fi router. This will solve that problem, which is becoming increasingly bigger as smartphones insert themselves into the internet of things. For instance, you could use your phone to download a video from a Wi-Fi network and simultaneously stream it to your TV. Or you could use a smartwatch connected by Wi-Fi Direct to your phone to check email, while listening to music streamed over the Wi-Fi network.

MWC-2015-ticker

5 Responses to “Broadcom’s new Wi-Fi chip turns your phone into an IoT hub”

  1. ewalsh5

    With Samsung becoming a major player in IoT devices and wearable segment (with their BMW i3 partnership, CES) and several new targeted devices, this might be an excellent move from Broadcomm to kill two business birds with one stone. Significant business process advancement potential through the IoT in inventory management, energy efficiency etc. would be achieved. Challenges of platform compatibility, data analysis and security could be overriden with the chip interfacing Samsung Business, dedicated brand to unify Samsung’s end-to-end business solution portfolio. And if your smartphone can become a hub for retail, education, hospitality, transportation, and logistics with Samsung KNOX (security) and Samsung smart signage (SSO IoT), that’s a powerful one-stop shop. Add to it Digital mirror (retail), Samsung school, workbook composer, cloud print(for educational industry), SMART hotel (hospitality), Vidyoworks Platform and BodyGuardian cardiac sensor (health and medicare) and Samsung SecuThruâ„¢ Lite (financial) – a consummate suite of products to leverage from, even from your IoT enabled smartphone. (more here: bit.ly/1JUdxyN )

  2. Yuval Lachman

    It seems that WIFI direct is required for setup and first time configuration process rather than the use case of”download a video from a Wi-Fi network and simultaneously stream it to your TV. For these kind use cases you don’t really need a dedicated and expensive HW accelerator/modem. You can achieve the same with a smart and much less expensive SW running over the smartphone GP multicores. Produvia-cloud is a company doing just that

  3. Interesting dual use capability. Smartphone implementations will still be highly dependent upon phone maker’s ability/willingness to accommodate two simultaneous 2×2 MIMO wifi antennas within the package. Combined with antennas serving multiple bands for LTE and legacy voice and data, even high end devices are challenged to squeeze all of this into a slim design dominated by display and metal case features.

  4. It’s nice to know the future will allow me to do something I’ve been doing with my Chromebook/Chromecast combo for quite a while now – simultaneously download a video and stream it to my TV.
    I don’t actually see how this helps with IOT. I thought the article would say it had built in zigbee or the like. It being able to do simultaneous wifi isn’t much of a help. If the thing it is communicating with can do wifi then it doesn’t need your phone. I can just connect to the router as the phone does.

    • Well, there are application areas for sure. If you for example use AppleTV or something similar today and stream from your phone the traffic path is AP->phone->AP->AppleTV on the same channel. This effectively kills many Wi-Fi networks if your favorite TV chair is too far away from the AP.

      With dual band support you could connect your phone to the AP on one radio and the AppleTV to your phone on another one, and each radio would just carry one connection, not three on the same.

      This would also serve as a range extender as the phone technically could act as a repeater between the WAN port of the AP and the IoT device whatever that is. Your IoT device would then only work when your phone is in between the AP and the device.