Qualcomm to Introduce Wireless Chips Supporting NFC

Feb 15 2011

BARCELONA – U.S.-based Qualcomm today announced that its new generation of combo-wireless chipsets, which could be used for smartphones and tablets, will support NFC.

Qualcomm said its new line of Snapdragon chips will be available in single- dual- and quad-core versions. All chips in the family will combine WiFi, GPS, Bluetooth and FM radio, as well as NFC, said Qualcomm in a statement. It announced the new chips at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

Update: But Steve Mollenkopf, executive vice president and group president for Qualcomm, told NFC Times Tuesday that NFC would not necessarily come as a default in all of the chips. "We may have different solutions," he said, indicating that depending on demand and the implementation, the chips might not support NFC. But he added, when asked by NFC Times about demand from device makers: "You are starting to hear that more and more." He did not, however, mention NFC technology during his prepared remarks at a press conference Tuesday.

The company is working with "partners" for the NFC technology, Mollenkopf added, in response to a question from NFC Times. That is probably a reference to Inside Secure. Qualcomm is an investor in the France-based NFC and contactless chip supplier, formerly known as Inside Contactless. And the two companies worked together on reference designs for chips for 3G phones. End update.

The inclusion of NFC with other wireless technologies is significant because non-NFC versions of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon chips are used in a range of high-end smartphones, reportedly including Android phones from Motorola and HTC, among others, including Windows Phone handsets. Qualcomm, the largest fabless chip supplier in the world, supplied just under 400 million chips last year.

It is also rumored to be inside the new Galaxy S II Android phone announced by Samsung yesterday. The Galaxy S II has NFC support from a standalone NFC chip from NXP Semiconductors. 

Qualcomm said samples of the new dual-core chip would be available in the second quarter of 2011 and the others in early 2012.

NFC support in combo-wireless chipsets could accelerate the base of high-end smartphones that could be used for payment, ticketing, couponing and other NFC applications. But before these phones could be used for payment and other secure NFC applications, they would also have to pack secure chips and NFC software stacks.

Wireless chip suppliers Broadcom of the United States and UK-based CSR are also expected to introduce wireless chips combining Bluetooth, WiFi and other wireless technologies with NFC. 

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