Texas Instruments Announces First Combo Wireless Chips Supporting NFC
U.S.-based chip giant Texas Instruments today announced the industry’s first combo wireless chips incorporating NFC, with its WiLink 8.0 series, which are expected to be incorporated in smartphones and other mobile devices, such as tablets, ultrathin laptops and eBooks.
The combo chips will be able to support up to five wireless technologies, including NFC, Bluetooth and WiFi, and will support embedded secure elements from Infineon Technologies and NXP Semiconductors.
“They will be designed into smartphones to start with,” Mark Hung, research director for wireless at U.S.-based research and consulting firm Gartner told NFC Times, confirming that the WiLink 8.0 family are the first combo wireless chips incorporating NFC on the market. “Other mobile platforms, such as tablets, should see an increased attach rate as well.”
The embedded secure elements from Infineon and NXP would enable the devices to support payment and Mifare-based ticketing, along with other secure applications, such as access control.
Juergen Spaenkuch, vice president and general manager for platform security in Infineon’s chip card and security division said in a statement that its embedded secure chips are certified by EMVCo and also have a Common Criteria level security rating of EAL 5+ high. This would enable the chips to handle credit or debit payment certified by Visa, MasterCard and other payment networks. The chips also could support access control and electronic keys, as well as ticketing, Infineon said.
The NXP chips could enable more advanced Mifare ticketing applications, as well as payment, access control and other secure applications. They're being used in NFC-enabled Android devices now on the market.
TI, one of the largest suppliers of chips to smartphone makers, said it expects the first devices carrying its new combo chips to ship in the second half of 2012.
The chip maker introduced five variations of the WiLink 8.0, and two of these support NFC, including the WL189x, which packs in five radio technologies, including NFC, Bluetooth, WiFi, satellite positioning and FM radio. The chip is “tailored for smartphones, tablets, eBooks, ultrathin computing devices and other feature-rich mobile products,” said the chip maker.
The other chip supporting NFC in the family, the WL185x, will include all of the wireless technologies except global positioning and will be targeted at mid-tier devices, TI said.
The new chips support 45-nanometer technology, and TI said it will offer a 50% size reduction compared with standalone NFC chips, though it’s unclear how TI is making the comparison. And such chip makers as Broadcom said it plans to use 40-nanometer technology for its first standalone NFC chip, due this year.
David Lacinski, strategic marketing manager for TI's wireless connectivity solutions unit told PC Magazine that the new combo chips save space compared with standalone NFC chips because they don't need the controller that standalone NFC chips have. “Today's (NFC) controllers are really big because most of the controllers are built on old processes, not standardized for the mobile environment,” he said. “This takes the controller out of the equation and integrates it into the silicon; it's virtually cost-free.”
The NFC-enabled combo chips from TI beat combo chips supporting NFC expected from Broadcom, Qualcomm and Intel, among others, to the market.
TI introduced a standalone NFC chip last August, which it said is not targeted at smartphones, but at devices ranging from medical equipment and hotel door locks.
Infineon is now providing embedded chips for NFC-enabled BlackBerry phones as part of Inside Secure’s NFC stacked chip offering. And Infineon is working on an embedded chip with 1 megabyte of memory.
NXP’s embedded chips along with its standalone NFC chips and NFC software are used in such Android devices as the Samsung Nexus S and Galaxy Nexus.