Major Wireless Chip Supplier Broadcom Announces First NFC Chip

U.S.-based chip maker Broadcom, a top supplier of wireless chips to the smartphone industry, today is announcing its first NFC chip, shaking up an already crowded field of chip vendors.

As NFC Times reported Sept. 9, the Broadcom offer will be a standalone chip using 40-nanometer technology. Broadcom touts the chip as the smallest and most power-efficient on the market.

The chip, the BCM2079x, could be used for device pairing and content sharing between smartphones and other devices and also to support payment and ticketing.

Broadcom’s announcement said the chip supports both a single-wire protocol connection–enabling applications on SIM cards–as well as interfaces for embedded secure chips. It also said the chip is the “only NFC controller to integrate transaction-based Application ID routing for simultaneous support of multiple secure elements within a single device.”

That apparently would enable such applications as contactless credit cards or ticketing to run on more than one secure element in the same phone.

Broadcom was not immediately available for comment. Craig Ochikubo, vice president and general manager in Broadcom’s wireless and personal area networks, was planning to announce the chip today at the large PT/Expo Comm telecom and IT show in Beijing.

Broadcom, the largest supplier of Bluetooth and WiFi chips to the smartphone industry, also touts the chip as easily linking up with its combo chips supporting Bluetooth, WiFi and FM radio in the same device. This could then enable quick pairing of devices to transfer data to other devices, for example, touching a smartphone to a tablet or television to transfer data.

“Broadcom is committed to making NFC as ubiquitous as Bluetooth and WiFi are today,” Ochikubo said in a statement, adding that Broadcom’s experience with Bluetooth and WiFi “influenced the architecture of these new chips to meet the performance required by OEMs (original equipment manufacturers), allowing them to more easily add NFC to their designs.”

Broadcom was originally thought to be planning to introduce NFC first as part of a combo chip, combining NFC with such other wireless technologies as Bluetooth and WiFi.

The chip maker more than a year ago finalized its $47.5 million purchase of UK-based Innovision, which supplied Broadcom and other chip makers with intellectual property for incorporating NFC in combo wireless chips.

Combo chips, which also can variously include such wireless technologies as FM radio and GPS, are used in a variety of smartphones and the expectation is that smartphone makers will eventually order the chips supporting NFC, as well. The combo chips save both space and money compared with separate chips covering the different wireless technologies.

But as Ochikubo told NFC Times earlier, handset makers are looking for standalone NFC chips for the next 12 to 24 months.

They are expected to eventually order combo chips incorporating NFC. But in addition to the weak demand so far for the combo chips by handset makers, some observers believe the technology to combine NFC with other wireless technologies is not yet ready.

The Innovision acquisition also gave Broadcom an NFC-tag unit. The chip maker is no doubt using IP it acquired from Innovision in the standalone chip, said observers.

As NFC Times reported earlier, Mark Hung, research director for wireless at U.S.-based research and consulting firm Gartner, said that while Broadcom is late in entering the already congested market for standalone NFC chips, it has a couple of advantages. Its chip would be based on 40-nanometer architecture, much smaller than the designs other chip makers are working with at present, he told NFC Times. This would save space and power consumption in the phones, he said.

Also, in addition to smartphones, Broadcom supplies non-NFC chips for televisions, PCs, set-top boxes and peripherals, which could help it provide NFC for these devices, as well, Hung said.

Broadcom’s standalone chip could roil an already crowded market. Such other major chip makers as Samsung Semiconductor, Texas Instruments, Renesas Electronics and STMicroelectronics have developed standalone NFC chips.

But they aren’t shipping them in volume yet. The main rival for the Broadcom NFC chips, therefore, will be NXP Semiconductors, which owns by far the largest share of the budding market. NXP is either supplying NFC chips or has announced design wins for such handset makers as Nokia, Samsung, Sony-Ericsson, ZTE and Huawei. France-based Inside Secure is also shipping NFC chips in volume. NXP recently said it is working with 15 device makers on 70 phone models and 10 tablets in the pipeline.

NXP supplies its own embedded chips, stacked with its NFC chips, including those in Google’s Nexus S Android phones.

It’s not clear whether Broadcom is working with a particular supplier of embedded secure chips. Broadcom itself does not have the smart card chip technology to offer its own secure elements.

Broadcom’s announcement didn’t mention when the new NFC chip would be available for sampling and volume production, but Ochikubo earlier told NFC Times the company doesn’t announce products long before it is ready to ship them. One report said the chips would be in devices launched by mid-2012.

“One of the big things for us is not to do (product) preannoucements that don’t reflect the reality,” he said.

HEADLINE NEWS

Payments Wearables in 2017: Market Makes Progress but Continues to Move Slowly

Dec 20 2017

NFC TIMES Exclusive Insight – While major smartwatch makers are enabling payments from their high-end devices, and there might be an announcement of another major wearables maker supporting payments at next month’s CES trade event, progress is slow for the technology to move to the range of lower-end smartwatches, fitness bands and such passive devices as rings, fobs and bracelets.

French Aerospace and Defense Group Thales Outbids Atos for Gemalto; Would Create Global Digital Security Unit

NFC TIMES Exclusive Insight – Less than a week after Gemalto’s board unanimously rejected an acquisition offer from France-based IT and consulting group Atos, complaining that Atos’ bid at €46 (US$54.18) per share “significantly undervalued the company” and that Gemalto is “best positioned to grow successfully on a standalone basis,” the board has publicly changed course and has unanimously approved a takeover offer from France-based Thales that is only 11% higher.

Mastercard Announces Plans to Enable QR Code-Based Payments in Taiwan

NFC TIMES Exclusive Insight – Mastercard has announced it will support QR code-based payments in Taiwan starting next year, working with the country’s largest credit card acquirer and processor and also Taiwan’s nascent domestic debit card network.

Samsung Pay Launches Octopus in Hong Kong, with Samsung's Latest Flagships Supporting FeliCa Technology

NFC TIMES Exclusive Insight – In the race among the major Pays wallets to add NFC transit ticketing to their mobile payments services, Samsung scored a win over Apple, with today’s launch of “Smart Octopus” with Samsung Pay.

Gemalto Rejects Proposed Atos €4.3 Billion Takeover; Contends Bid Price 'Significantly Undervalues' Company

NFC TIMES Exclusive Insight – The board of struggling French smart card and security vendor Gemalto has rejected an all-cash €4.3 billion (US$5.08 billion) takeover bid by France-based IT services and consulting company Atos, calling Atos’ €46-per-share bid “opportunistic,” and contending that it “significantly undervalues” the company, among other objections.

In-Depth: Atos Offers €4.3 Billion to Acquire Struggling French Vendor Gemalto

Dec 14 2017

NFC TIMES Exclusive Insight – French IT services group Atos hopes to bolster its cybersecurity, IoT and payments offers with its €4.3 billion (US$5.07 billion) unsolicited bid to buy struggling France-based smart card and digital security vendor Gemalto.

Mastercard Quietly Certifies First Data and PayPal to Tokenize Mastercard-Branded Cards

NFC TIMES Exclusive – Mastercard has opened up tokenization of Mastercard-branded card accounts to two other major payments industry players, First Data and PayPal, enabling them to tokenize Mastercard-branded cards for mobile and other digital payments services as an alternative to Mastercard’s own token service, MDES, NFC Times has learned.

Apple Launches P2P Payments Featuring Own Digital Payment Card; Should Banks Worry?

NFC TIMES Exclusive Insight – A key part of Apple’s new Apple Pay Cash peer-to-peer payments service is its digital prepaid debit card–which can be used for in-store NFC purchases and other transactions–a first for the tech giant.

Target Shuns NFC and Apple Pay as Expected with New Wallet; Service Features Private-Label Card

NFC TIMES Exclusive Insight – Target has added its long-anticipated 2-D bar code-based wallet to its mobile app, following rival Wal-Mart Stores in launching its own payments service and shunning NFC and contactless, as expected.

Belgian Domestic Debit Network Seeks to Expand Use of Mobile Payments, Though Consumer Habits Hard to Break

Dec 1 2017

NFC TIMES Exclusive Insight – Belgium’s domestic debit network Bancontact is offering both QR code and NFC-based mobile payments services with 20 banks in the country, as backers seek to expand use by consumers of mobile and contactless payments, which each make up only around 1% of total Bancontact transactions.

Korean and Taiwanese Banks Test Loyalty Points Exchange Using Blockchain

NFC TIMES Exclusive Insight – KEB Hana Bank of South Korea and Taishin International Bank of Taiwan have demonstrated the transfer of bonus points and purchase of coupons using Blockchain technology, with KEB Hana Bank planning to launch initial service for visitors to the Winter Olympics next February in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Norwegian Banks Move to Defend Against Global Tech Giants by Uniting Payments Services

NFC TIMES Exclusive Insight –  The “Pays” wallets, such as Apple Pay and Android Pay, have not yet launched in Norway, but Norwegian banks are not waiting for tech giants Apple and Google or other outside behemoths, such as Facebook, to try to gain a foothold.