Feature Article

February 18, 2011

Wireless LAN Chipset Market to Double in 2011, Says IHS iSuppli

With WiFi functionality becoming a standard feature in a host of consumer electronics, shipments of wireless local area network (WLAN) chipsets is estimated to double in 2011, according to market watcher new IHS iSuppli. Shipments of WLAN chipsets, mainly WiFi compatible devices, are projected to reach 738.9 million units this year, up a resounding 101.5 percent from 366.8 million units in 2010. The market research firm predicts that shipment of the chipsets will rise to exceed 1 billion units next year and then hit more than 2 billion units by 2014.

In a statement, said Jagdish Rebello, senior director and principal analyst for consumer and communication electronics at IHS iSuppli, “Wireless connectivity has become a must-have item in electronic devices in the computer, consumer, communications and automotive markets.” “These days, an electronic product not capable of communicating or accessing content at any time or in any place is regarded by consumers as deficient. This wireless revolution is contributing to a global boom in demand for WiFi chipsets,” noted Rebello.

WLAN chipsets can be found in both standalone solutions and embedded devices. The standalone category includes devices such as point/bridge routers; the embedded category comprises a broad range of electronic devices, including laptops, mobile handsets, tablets, high-definition televisions, portable media players, printers, cameras, camcorders, DVD and Blu-ray players, gaming consoles, personal navigation devices and high-end automotive head units.

While WLAN chipsets mainly are based on the 802.11n WiFi standard, other connectivity technologies are also making significant inroads into the daily lives of consumers. For instance, there’s the wireless personal area networking (WPAN) segment, which encompasses disparate technologies like Bluetooth and near field communications.

In both the WLAN and WPAN technologies, radio waves transmit and exchange data over short distances between devices, enhancing their mobility and ease of use.

Another connectivity technology, ZigBee, is trying to gain momentum in the home automation and smart utility monitoring applications for residential and commercial building environments, the study shows. IHS iSuppli’s research indicates that ZigBee will achieve traction in applications like the heating, cooling and lighting of living spaces, as well as the monitoring of gas, water and electrical utilities.

Further commenting, Rebello added, “As WiFi increasingly develops into a standard wireless networking interface for innumerable devices, the easy interconnection capabilities inherent in the technology will open the door for an even greater range of consumer electronic devices to be seamlessly connected and networked. In turn, significant new business opportunities can be expected to emerge for the silicon suppliers, consumer electronics manufacturers and communication service providers operating in the WLAN space,” stated Rebello.

According to IHS iSuppli’s report, Broadcom Corp., which emerged as the leader among WLAN chip suppliers in 2008, maintained its top position at least through the first half of 2010. Atheros Communications was another important supplier in this market, which boasts a strong position in the embedded WLAN market for notebooks, followed by Ralink, a fast-growing design company for integrated circuits based in Taiwan.

Ashok Bindra is a veteran writer and editor with more than 25 years of editorial experience covering RF/wireless technologies, semiconductors and power electronics. To read more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Tammy Wolf

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