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Handset chip streams music over FM link

SAN JOSE, Calif. — FM radio could become a bigger part of home and personal-area networks with the rollout from Broadcom Corp. of a new handset chip supporting music streaming via an FM transmitter.

Broadcom announced Tuesday (Oct. 21) a new version of its Bluetooth/FM receiver combination chip for cellphones. The BCM2049, now sampling, includes an FM transmitter to stream MP3 music on the handset to a nearby home or car radio.

MP3 players and car adapter kits have used FM transmission to link music players with car audio systems, but the feature has not yet been popularized for cellphones. Ajit Deosthali, a research manager for short range wireless at International Data Corp., said he believed the chip was the first handset device to combine an FM transmitter and Bluetooth.

The 2049 uses an algorithm that recommends the best transmit frequency to send streams to a car radio or home FM receiver. It also supports the ability to simultaneously distribute streams to multiple stereo headphones.

The new chip also can transcode MP3 audio files for playback over a Bluetooth headset. “About 65 percent of new phones have MP3 playback, but many of them do not have enough Mips to stream MP3s to Bluetooth headphones,” said Rafael Sotomayor, a marketing manager for wireless products at Broadcom (Irvine, Calif.).

Broadcom has implemented the Bluetooth stack inside its chip, so it does not need to use the cell phone baseband processor for Bluetooth audio streaming. This will save power on the baseband processor and hence will improve battery life, said Deosthali.

The new chip also supports either an external or internal antenna housed inside the handset. Many current FM chips require an external antenna.

The 2049 improves FM receiver sensitivity by 3 dB over previous Broadcom products. It supports tuning and station search functions for worldwide frequency bands from 65 to 108 MHz.

The chip is made in a 65 nm technology which reduces die size and power consumption by about 30 percent compared to the company's previous Bluetooth/FM chip. It supports the Bluetooth version 2.1 enhanced data rate.

“In the coming months, we'll continue to introduce new combo chip products,” said Robert Rango, general manager of Broadcom's wireless connectivity group in a statement.

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