CSR's latest Bluetooth v2.1 + EDR specification chip will feature low-energy communication, GPS capability and an FM transceiver, the company has announced. Arch rival, Broadcom, has responded by moving its design to a smaller process which it says will make them cheaper.
BlueCore7, CSR's latest Bluetooth chip, is one of the first to include the low-energy version of Bluetooth formerly known as WiBree, which was adopted by the Bluetooth SIG a year ago, for low power communications to other devices such as watches. It also has a GPS system which works with satellites, or cell-towers for an approximate location indoors, and an FM radio which can also transmit signals - for instance to play music through a car radio.
All that is on a 3.2 x 3.6 mm core, which takes up 30 square millimetres of the circuit board of a phone, says John Halksworth, CSR's head of handset connectivity product management: "It's the first step to a connectivity centre in the device."
Broadcom has hit back with miniaturisation. Its BCM2070 Bluetooth chip does not have the same features integrated, but is made using 65nm CMOS, compared with the 90nm technology in CSR's BlueCore7. This will make it smaller, cheaper and less power-hungry according to Craig Ochikubo, senior director of Broadcom's PAN line of business.
"There is a lot of performance and process automation, to drive down current consumption," said Ochikubo. "We have other products that integrate an FM radio, and Wi-Fi." There is a large segment of the market that needs plain Bluetooth with no wasted costs, he said, asserting that the Broadcom would be cheaper and take up less space than CSR's.
As neither will be delivered in quantity for some months, prices can't be compared, but Broadcom's system takes up 25 square mm of board space. CSR denied 65nm gives Broadcom any advantage: "Our geometries are not the smallest but they are customer and market led," said a spokesman. "A smaller geometry would have meant new packaging which would have put the price up."
CSR's low energy Bluetooth implementation is too early, says Broadcom: "We've been actively involved in that space," said Ochikubo. "We joined the Wibree partnership when Nokia started it. We are active in interoperability testing, but it is still a ways away from being ratified as a fully completed specification. I think CSR's announcement reflects a pre-intention rather than actual delivery."
"That CSR has been the first-to-market with Bluetooth low energy is simply another example of CSR’s leadership in Bluetooth," said a CSR spokesman, claiming CSR led the way with v1.2, v2.0 and v2.1 Bluetooth. "The low energy standard is already at version 0.5 which means the fundamental spec is already agreed. Our BlueCore7 product will be ready to activate the full Bluetooth low energy specification when the standard is ratified."
Last year, CSR offered improved audio with its Bluecore6. That's not such an issue this year, as Broadcom also has its own SmartAudio technology.
Overall, CSR has been the leader in the market for Bluetooth chips, but Broadcom claims its share is increasing: "They have the leadership in headsets, but we lead in handsets," said Ochikubo.