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Qualcomm promises vastly improved NFC chips for next year

NFC is slowly becoming a household term, but there still are things to improve about NFC, and Qualcomm, the leading designer of mobile processors, is at the forefront of the effort.
December 6, 2012

NFC is slowly becoming a household term, at least for the tech literate. With most mid- to high-end mobile devices incorporating Near Field Communication nowadays (the notable exception is the iPhone), the technology is close to achieving the critical mass required to break into mainstream.

But there still are things to improve about NFC, and Qualcomm, the leading designer of mobile processors, is at the forefront of the effort. Through its subsidiary Atheros, Qualcomm announced the QCA1990, a NFC chip that is half the size of today’s typical processors, requires antennas that are eight time smaller, and features firmware that minimizes battery consumption.

The improvements in the new chip lower the barrier for integrating NFC into smartphones, tablets and other devices. The QCA1990 chip also plays nice with Qualcomm’s popular Snapdragon application processors, which is great news considering the benefits of such integration – lower costs and improved efficiency.

The new NFC chip will reach manufacturers next year, with the first devices to use it set to be released during the third quarter of 2013.


Qualcomm Atheros Introduces Ultra-Low Power Near Field Communication Chip for Mobile Devices

NFC Solution to Drive Next-Generation Mobile Payments and Wireless Connectivity
SAN DIEGO, Calif. – December 5, 2012 – Qualcomm Incorporated (NASDAQ: QCOM) today announced that its subsidiary, Qualcomm Atheros, Inc., introduced a new ultra-low power near field communication (NFC) solution that will enable mobile devices with contactless communications and data exchange, including next-generation mobile payments. The QCA1990 is the industry’s smallest, ultra-low power system-on-chip (SoC) with an overall footprint that is 50 percent smaller than current NFC chips available in the market. When paired with Qualcomm Atheros’ WCN3680 1-stream, dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi/Bluetooth 4.0/FM chip, the QCA1990 will enable seamless user experiences in the mobile, computing and consumer electronics markets.
The QCA1990 offers platform-level integration with the Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 and next-generation processors and modems to seamlessly enable NFC on Qualcomm’s OEM partner smartphones and tablets. The QCA1990 software stack complies with the NFC Forum Controller Interface (NCI) and is fully integrated to enable faster time-to-market for customers. Its state-of-the-art radio frequency (RF) performance exceeds requirements established by EMVCo and the NFC Forum. With supported antenna form factors that are eight times smaller than current market offerings, QCA1990 offers significant cost savings for OEMs to integrate NFC at a significantly lower price point.
As consumers continue to rely more on their mobile devices for new and extended applications, battery drain can be a significant issue; the QCA1990 employs extremely low-power polling algorithms to prolong battery life. The QCA1990 also offers a wide range of secure element options, both embedded and SIM-based, while supporting multiple secure elements concurrently, including support for a dual-SIM configuration.
“Qualcomm Atheros believes NFC will be another key element of an enriched experience for smartphone and tablet consumers. As consumers continue to adopt functions like mobile payments and contactless data exchange, Qualcomm intends to be at the forefront of delivering simple, easy-to-use solutions to OEM partners,” said David Favreau, vice president of product management, Qualcomm Atheros. “By enabling client devices, Qualcomm Atheros is paving the way for rapid adoption of products that incorporate NFC technology.”
The QCA1990 is pre-tested to meet the requirements from payment schemes, mobile operators and OEMs globally. The QCA1990 will sample to customers starting in the first quarter of 2013, with commercial designs with leading OEMs expected in the third quarter of 2013. For more information, please visit