Wi-Fi chip biz to reach US$4bn in sales

14 Sep 2009

The increasing array of devices that will carry Wi-Fi chipsets – from smart phones to gaming consoles and digital TV sets – will result in chip vendors shipping US$4bn worth of chips by 2013, an analyst predicts.

Vendors will ship US$4 billion in Wi-Fi radio chips in 2013, most of these for cellphones, notebooks, netbooks, infrastructure, home entertainment systems and wireless gaming consoles.

At the same time, adoption of 802.11n MIMO with multiple transmit streams will help boost the market for Wi-Fi power amplifier modules to twice its 2008 size, despite continued pricing pressure.

“By the end of 2010,” says Christopher Taylor, director of the Strategy Analytics RF and Wireless Components research service, “802.11n will ship in more than half of all Wi-Fi systems. Prices for single-stream 802.11n (1 x 1) chipsets and PAs have already dropped to match 802.11g, prompting OEMs to quickly begin to switch from 802.11g to 802.11n 1 x 1 chipsets in new products.”

Strategy Analytics has determined that Broadcom will probably remain on top, but the firm faces increasing competition from cellular chip vendors bundling connectivity with their platforms, and from chip specialists targeting emerging applications, such as Wi-Fi for home entertainment.

In power amplifiers, SiGe Semiconductor has established a firm lead despite increasing competition from GaAs PA module specialists Skyworks, RFMD, TriQuint and Anadigics.

“As Wi-Fi continues to proliferate in new devices and applications, multi-stream MIMO configurations of 802.11n (i.e. 2 x 2, 3 x 3 and 4 x 4, transmit x receive) will rapidly grow in support of demand for greater range, faster file transfers and streaming multimedia in many of these applications,” according to Taylor.

This will push the Wi-Fi power amp market to almost $1 billion over the next five years according to the Strategy Analytics Wi-Fi component forecast model, which considers MIMO stream adoption rates by application.

By John Kennedy

Photo: Chip vendors are forecast to ship US$4bn worth of chips by 2013 as a result of the number of devices that will carry Wi-Fi chipsets.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years