Last night I was talking with a very good friend in Californcolleague who works for Broadcom who mentioned that the company has slowed down the number of hires again – Broadcom, among many other companies, were on an almost total hire freeze during 2009 – because they were about to make a huge expense by buying a company.

Later on, I googled it and found out that, indeed, Broadcom is going to buy the Santa Clara, Calif.-based startup Beceem, that provides WiMAX chips as well as newer chips that can combine WiMAX and LTE radios. The amount of the operation will be of $316 million.

The attraction for Broadcom is obvious, as fourth-generation wireless radios won’t be limited to cell phones, but will likely appear in tablets, cameras, industrial sensors and even home appliances as well. It’s a huge potential market and one that Broadcom may be able to break into with this acquisition, even though rivals such as Qualcomm and MediaTek are already big suppliers on the cellular baseband radio side. Broadcom’s 3G business is fairly small, but its ability to integrate multiple radios on a single chip has made it a leader for other types of radios, such as those for Bluetooth and Wi-Fi communications.

As for Beceem, the deal is probably a help, as it filed to go public in April, but has yet to do so. Part of the issue may have been Clearwire’s apparent change of heart with WiMAX; it’s testing LTE, and, thanks to a change in its contract with Intel , it can transition sooner from WiMAX to LTE if it wants to. Beceem, which also counts Intel as an investor, is closely associated with WiMAX, even as it has made efforts to branch into LTE chips. Investors may have been leery of its WiMAX-focused revenue stream and its ability to compete against larger radio companies building LTE baseband chips, making this acquisition a win-win for Beceem’s investors and Broadcom. Perhaps this deal opens the door for other 4G radio startups such as Altair Semiconductor, Wavesat and Sequans to find buyers.

Broadcom already published a press release on their website with the details of the operations.

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