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Dual-core Broadcom SoC aims for mass-market Android smartphones

Dec 15, 2010 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 3 views

Broadcom announced a dual-core ARM11 baseband platform that exclusively targets affordable Android phones. Clocked to 500MHz, the Broadcom BCM2157 SoC (system-on-chip) combines an applications processor with 3G HSDPA modem connectivity, GPS, NFC, and 30fps H.264 encode/decode, the company says.

Yes, folks, Android has now reached the point where semiconductor manufacturers are exclusively tailoring processors for the platform. In this case, in fact, Broadcom has optimized the BCM2157 for a subset of the Android universe: low-cost smartphones. The BCM2157 system-on-chip (SoC) aims to "deliver high-end smartphone features on more affordable 3G Android handsets," says the company.

Dual cores and worldwide 3G roaming

In the handset arena, semiconductor giant Broadcom has previously focused primarily on modem-oriented baseband processors or specialty PND chips and Wi-Fi chipsets. Earlier this year, however, it announced an ARM11-based BCM21553 SoC aimed at mid-range 3G smartphones running Android or Windows Mobile. 

The new BCM2157 moves up to two ARM11 cores, focuses solely on mass-market Android phones, and bills itself as offering Android application processing features.

Typical of Broadcom, there are few technical details offered on the processor. However, the BCM2157 is said to offer dual 500MHz, 65nm-fabricated ARM11 cores, Android-optimized application processing, and a 3G HSDPA modem that supports 7.2Mbps (megabits per second) downstream connectivity.

The BCM2157 offers worldwide roaming, including 3G dual SIM/dual standby capability, says Broadcom. The processor is also said to support AMR-WB (adaptive multi-rate wideband) voice calls over 3G networks.

The processor includes Broadcom's PRISM (programmable interference suppression module) technology, says the company. PRISM is claimed to mitigate interference from radio signals emanating from neighboring cells "to provide higher performance gains in high interference environments."

NFC and mobile hotspot support

The BCM2157 offers "Broadcom's complete connectivity suite," which includes Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, GPS, and NFC (near field communication) solutions, says the company. Mobile hotspot functionality is also provided, allowing the handset to share the 3G connection with up to eight simultaneous devices or users via Wi-Fi, says Broadcom.

During hotspot sessions, the handset user can "concurrently browse and download from the web, watch streaming video or engage in a Bluetooth-based phone call," says Broadcom. This capability appears to be the work of the SoC's built-in "InConcert" technology, which is said to coordinate activities between the various wireless technologies, while supporting concurrent usage.

The BCM2157 supports multitouch screens, but maxes out at the HVGA (480 x 320-pixel) and WQVGA (480 x 272) resolutions typical of 3.2-inch screens. Whereas the earlier BCM21553 supports up to eight-megapixel camera resolution, the BCM2157 is said to top out at five megapixels. In addition, the SoC can encode and decode H.264 video at 30 fps (frames per second), says the company.

The processor is also said to offer full mixed-signal audio and high-speed USB connectivity. Beyond that, Broadcom mentions only "innovative media and applications processing" to bring smartphone capabilities to low-cost phones.

Google tips big Android push in emerging nation

In addressing low-cost Android smartphones, Broadcom may be targeting a very large market indeed. A Financial Times story on Monday quotes Google's Android guru Andy Rubin as saying that his recent claim of 300,000 daily activations for Android was based on a boom in Android sales in emerging markets.

Rubin predicts "a perfect storm" for Android, as he projects handset sales will continue to boom in giant markets like China, India, Brazil, Indonesia, and other emerging nations, says the story. Typically, lower-cost phones lead sales in such markets.

Stated Scott Bibaud, executive vice president & general manager, Broadcom's Mobile Platforms Group, "We've maximized the functionality of our new Android-processing baseband platform to enable our partners to deliver the most popular features in more affordable designs."


The Broadcom BCM2157 is now sampling to early access customers, with first commercial launches expected in Q1 2011, says Broadcom. More information may be found at Broadcom's BCM2157 web-page.

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