Broadcom targets choppy audio with new Bluetooth chip

FILE PHOTO: A sign to the campus offices of chip maker Broadcom Ltd, who announced on Monday an unsolicited bid to buy peer Qualcomm Inc for $103 billion, is shown in Irvine, California, U.S., November 6, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake

(Reuters) - Broadcom Inc on Thursday released a new chip aimed at eliminating choppy phone calls and music on Bluetooth headphones.

The San Jose, California-based company is a major supplier to high-end smart phone makers such as Apple Inc, with whom it has signed deals to supply as much as $15 billion worth of chips.

The Broadcom chip released on Thursday handles Wi-Fi and Bluetooth wireless communication functions in devices such as smart phones. The Bluetooth portion of the chip uses two radios in tandem to communicate with devices such as headphones.

Vijay Nagarajan, vice president of Broadcom’s mobile connectivity division, said the technology is meant to prevent choppy calls and music listening when walking into crowded areas like subway platforms, where Bluetooth signals from other people’s devices can cause interference and dropouts.

“We’re making your wireless link from your phone to the headset more resilient,” Nagarajan told Reuters.

The Bluetooth chips also keep one of their radios in a low-power mode so that it can stay on all the time to “listen” for devices trying to connect to a mobile phone, a feature meant to help wireless headphones connect faster.

The chip will also support Wi-Fi 6E, a new version of the common wireless standard that is expected to be much faster than previous versions if both a phone and a Wi-Fi router have new chips that support it. But before the technology can be used, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission must finalize its 2018 move to open up the use of 6-gigahertz spectrum.

If U.S. regulators open the spectrum in the next several months, Nagarajan said devices with the new chips could come to market as early as this fall.

Reporting by Stephen Nellis in San Francisco; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall