Chip Maker Marvell Sees Device Pairing as Key to Quick NFC Take-Up
BARCELONA – Yet another chip maker is planning to incorporate NFC into its portfolio, with an announcement today by U.S.-based Marvell Technology Group that it would combine NFC with super-fast Wi-Fi and other wireless technologies in chips targeted for mobile and portable devices.
Marvell plans to use NFC to enable users to quickly pair Wi-Fi or Bluetooth devices in the home and elsewhere, including gaming consoles, printers, digital TVs, set-top boxes, Blue-ray players, automobiles and mobile phones and tablets. Marvell plans for the chips to incorporate the next generation of Wi-Fi technology, 802.11ac, which is not yet standardized.
The budding technology would enable Wi-Fi transmissions at speeds that can exceed one gigabit per second. This could make for fast communication among devices in the home or office, though is not designed for long-range Wi-Fi connections.
UPDATE: “In terms of getting widespread adoption quickly, we’re putting NFC into every (wireless) chip we build, except those at the very low-end of the market,” Bart Giordano, director of wireless marketing for Marvell, told NFC Times.
He said Marvell would begin sampling combo wireless chipsets that incorporate NFC by mid-2012 and would be ready for commercial shipments during the first half of 2013. Besides Wi-Fi, the chips might also include such wireless technologies as Bluetooth and FM radio.
While sales and profits fell the past fiscal year for Marvell, a top 20 semiconductor supplier with sales of $3.4 billion in the year ending in January 2012, the company holds a significant market share of wireless chips for such devices as printers, gaming consoles and enterprise access points, and it will be a major supplier of chips for devices that support Google TV.
Using NFC, users could more quickly open up a Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connection to transfer games, videos or photos from one device to another.
For example, a user could tap his smartphone on a digital TV or set-top box to pair and transfer a video, using NFC and Wi-Fi Display, the latter a standard for peer-to-peer streaming between devices, said Giordano. Or he could tap a digital camera on a printer to quickly print out a photo. Adding NFC allows users to avoid the need to scan and select devices or networks and possibly entering a security code before making a Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connection.
He said Marvell owns 80% to 85% of the market for Wi-Fi chips in printers. It also ships Wi-Fi or Wi-Fi combo chips for such video game consoles as the new PlayStation Vita from Sony and also Microsoft Xbox units.
The new NFC-enabled combo wireless chips will be part of Marvell's “low-power” Avastar line of chips, which it will demonstrate this week at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.
Marvell also plans to support payment and other secure applications on some of the devices for which it hopes to supply NFC-enabled wireless chips, such as smartphones, Giordano said.
The company is in discussions with smart card chip makers, which could supply embedded secure elements for the wireless chips, though Giordano declined to name them. Possibilities are Infineon Technologies and NXP Semiconductors.
But Giordano said the company believes the market for NFC technology used for quick pairing of devices will ramp up more quickly than for NFC chips and secure elements used for payment.
“In an application like that (payment), where there are competing interests–all sort of fighting for the piece of the pie–the market’s rather fragmented right now and still trying to sort itself out,” he said.
The announcement by Marvell of support for NFC had been expected. The company is a principal member of the NFC Forum trade and standards group. END UPDATE.
The Marvell release follows the announcement by U.S.-based Texas Instruments two weeks ago of what is believed to be the first combination wireless chips incorporating NFC.
TI’s WiLink 8.0 series is expected to be built into smartphones and other mobile devices, such as tablets, ultrathin laptops and eBooks. Some of the devices will incorporate embedded secure elements from Infineon Technologies and NXP semiconductors, enabling the devices, such as high-end smartphones or tablets, to support payment, access control and other secure applications.
Other large U.S. chip makers, Broadcom, Qualcomm and Intel, are also working on combo wireless chips incorporating NFC.