Broadcom eyes U.S. providers for tablet chip sales

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Broadcom Corp, whose chips power Apple Inc’s iPad, expects more tablet computers using its chips to hit the U.S. market as early as this year, an executive for Broadcom said on Thursday.

Leo Azevedo, a senior Broadcom marketing manager, said his company was in talks with U.S. service providers about rolling out the tablets.

He declined, however, to name any specific top U.S. providers, a group which includes Verizon Communications, AT&T Inc and Comcast Corp.

The popular iPad, which runs on AT&T Inc’s mobile network, has raised the profile of tablet computers, pushing Apple’s rivals to follow suit.

Azevedo sees the next operators who offer tablets putting their own take on the category with applications ranging from video display and video conferencing to baby monitors and home security systems.

Moreover, they will likely seek to ease the burden on overloaded cellular networks by letting customers use tablets for Web surfing and telephony services via Wi-Fi, a home short-range network technology that is found in many homes.

Depending on which chips are included the device could cost the operator $70 to $120, according to Azevedo. He said this is cheap enough to allow operators to offer consumers good deals to discourage them from switching to rival networks.

“I would think they might even offer it free,” he said, noting that providers could also subsidize the price by showing ads on the phone.

He demonstrated a device made by Gemtek that was powered by Google Inc’s Android operating system.

Verizon Wireless, owned by Verizon and Vodafone Group Plc, said last month that it will offer tablet computers based on Android later this year.

Overseas, Japan’s NTT DoCoMo and UK operator BT Group PLC have tested Broadcom-powered tablets and are expected to launch them commercially around the third quarter.

Broadcom said its tablet manufacturing partners include Gemtek, South Korea’s Moimstone, Asustek Computer unit Pegatron and the LG Nortel unit of LG Electronics.

Reporting by Sinead Carew; Editing by Richard Chang