Ashleigh Allsopp February 8, 2013
News that Samsung’s Galaxy S4 smarthphone (expected to launch this month) may support 802.11ac, also known as ’5G Wi-Fi’, has lead to speculation that Apple’s next iPhone could support standard as well.
Evercore Partners analyst Patrick Wang has said that new connectivity chips from Broadcom (BRCM) are expected to be used in the Samsung’s Galaxy S4, and that Apple is also believed to be in talks with Broadcom about new chips for its iPhone 6, as well as the rumoured low-cost iPhone.
Broadcom unveiled its 5G Wi-Fi chips last year, which use a standard known as IEEE 802.11ac. The company boasts that “5G WiFi is the next generation Wi-Fi standard required for today’s mobile and video era and is three times faster and six times more power efficient than previous generation 802.11an devices.”
This week, Wang wrote: “We conducted a series of check that indicate BRCM’s combo chip (likely 4335, with 5G Wi-Fi, BT, FM) remains designed into Samsung’s forthcoming Galaxy S4.”
Given BRCM’s current technology lead and software stickiness, it makes sense that Samsung would seek a best in class solution.”
The analyst said that he believes Apple may only use Broadcom’s 43342 combo chip, which works on 802.11a/b/g/n,BT,FM networks in its iPhone 6, alternatively dubbed iPhone 5S, with a ramp starting mid-2013.
A low-cost iPhone that also uses Broadcom chips could be launched in quarter three of this year, said Wang.
It seems unlikely that Apple wouldn’t role out 5G WiFi, sometimes called Gig-Wi-Fi in the next generation iPhone. We think that it’s highly likely that Apple will opt to include a 5G Wi-Fi capable chip in its next iPhone if its biggest rival Samsung is planning to do so.
However, to save costs for the rumoured cheaper iPhone, it’s possible that Apple will choose to stick to a fourth-generation WiFi chip for that device.
It’s worth noting that the chips, while referred to as 5G WiFi, do not correlate with 3G and 4G cellphone networks. This 802.11ac standard is the successor to 802.11n.
In January, we reported that Apple’s new Macs, Apple TV, Time Capsule and Airport devices could soon support 802.11ac networking.
The 802.11ac standard is still in draft, with its final approval by the IEEE not likely to come until later in 2013. That doesn’t mean that Apple will wait until the standard is approved, however. Apple has shipped products using draft versions of wireless standards in the past.
The draft status also hasn’t stopped other companies from using it. In June 2012 an Asus laptop became the first to incorporate the standard, although 802.11ac is yet to make its way into mainstream notebooks.
Broadcom is one of only a small number of chipmakers currently providing these 802.11ac chipsets.
Apple’s next-generation iPhone is also rumoured to have a fingerprint sensor, multiple colour options, 128GB of storage, an improved display, NFC and an updated processor.