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Broadcom buys Santa Clara cellphone chip maker

The Irvine firm pays $316 million for Beceem Communications to fast-track the development of microchips for the next generation of mobile devices.

October 14, 2010|By David Sarno, Los Angeles Times

Broadcom Corp., looking to speed up development of microchips that will go into the next generation of cellular devices, has acquired Santa Clara-based Beceem Communications Inc. for $316 million.

Chips from Irvine-based Broadcom currently power mobile devices including Apple Inc.'s iPad and iPhone, but have until now been largely limited to older-generation 2G and 3G devices.

Beceem, whose engineering hub is in Bangalore, India, manufactures microchips that work with newer cellular networks that will double or triple the speed of wireless devices in the coming years. By building Beceem's technology into its own chips, Broadcom wants to enable devices to take advantage of both existing networks and the faster ones — often referred to as 4G — currently under development.

Beceem's chips work with 4G technologies such as WiMax and LTE (Long Term Evolution), the fast new mode of voice and data transmission that Verizon Wireless and other major mobile carriers will roll out later this year.

"We went out and surveyed all the serious players in LTE in the world and ultimately decided that the best of all the solutions out there was the one from Beceem," said Scott Bibaud, the executive vice president of Broadcom's Mobile Platforms Group.

Because many of the world's cellular networks still use 2G and 3G technology, phones will increasingly need to switch between networks, according to what is locally available.

Broadcomm said it would focus on producing a single "multimode" chip that would allow mobile devices to speak the many radio languages that the world's patchwork of cellular networks require. Although the company did not offer a specific timeline on the chip, Bibaud said it would create it "as fast as we can."

"It's the future of mobile broadband," said Beceem's chief executive, Surendra Babu Mandava, referring to 4G technology. "It gives you much better access at much lower cost and power."

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