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Broadcom’s BCM1161 processor integrates array of common features: The single-chip VoWLAN processor includes USB, an LCD, and analog codecs for microphone and speaker connections. It supports a 2 megapixel digital camera, recording audio, the playback of audio and video clips, and 3-way and speaker phone calls. It doesn’t include Wi-Fi on board, which is hard to figure from the coverage and press release. Broadcom offers Wi-Fi in a single chip to complement this VoIP offering.
Broadcom is also offering a reference design for integrating their product with a Wi-Fi chipset into a fully functioning handset.
Atheros has made a number of moves toward supporting voice over IP over Wi-Fi: Atheros chips are being used by Japanese vendor ICOM in access points that are designed specifically for voice applications. Atheros has also introduced a product line and an open source project aimed at making it simple to use a handheld device, like a phone, to do voice over Wi-Fi. We may see an interesting battle in the near future among chip vendors hoping to score a share of the mobile voice over IP market. The mobile phone makers usually stick to a small group of chip makers so I’d be interested to watch chip developers like Atheros try to get a foot in that door, as the handset makers look to develop combined cellular/Wi-Fi voice devices.
This nice roundup at Wi-Fi Planet details announcements from Wi-Fi chip makers that are likely targeted at the voice market: Many of the big chip makers have come out with chips designed for use in low-power handheld devices like PDAs and phones. Some of them support quality of service which helps in giving priority to voice calls.
These bits of news bode well for growth in the market for voice over Wi-Fi. But this type of news, combined with the vendors that are introducing Wi-Fi phones, also suggest that the device side of the market, as opposed to the operator side, is actually driving voice over Wi-Fi. In the cellular world, handset makers and operators usually work closely to define the capabilities that operators want. Often when a new phone is introduced, it’s done so in conjunction with an operator or operators that plan to sell it. Not so in the voice over Wi-Fi market, where some handsets are being introduced without being attached to any specific hotspot operator. Such devices can be used at home with Wi-Fi networks and in totally open public networks but would be difficult to use with subscription based services that require authentication.