In 2012 a major milestone has been reached for the Wi-Fi market: over 5 billion Wi-Fi enabled devices have been shipped in the technologies lifetime. Recent explosive growth has been largely driven by the smartphone and laptop markets but future success will be dependent on Wi-Fi penetration into newer markets such as connected home and automotive devices.
Although 2012 turned out to be an off year for RF power amplifiers and devices for wireless infrastructure the market still held its own. The current year should be viewed as a breathing space before both segments resume stable and moderate growth after an explosive 2011.
The African cellular market is very much pulling in the subscribers. In 3Q-2012, the 54 countries and 1.08 billion people have accumulated 821 million subscriptions, up 16.9% year-on-year, resulting in a cellular subscription penetration of 76.4%. In the first quarter of 2013, cellular penetration will eclipse 80%. Given the fact that a significant percentage of prepaid users maintain more than one active prepaid subscription to minimize interconnection charges, there is still subscriber growth to be had.
After many years of waiting, 60 GHz technology looks set to emerge from a niche technology to a mass market solution. The main enabler has been the linking of the WiGig Alliance with the Wi-Fi Alliance and the forthcoming ratification of the 802.11ad standard which will encourage more Wi-Fi IC vendors to add 11ad to future tri-band solutions (i.e., 11n / 11ac / 11ad).
A new forecast predicts dramatic growth in the semiconductor market supporting small cells, from $90 million in 2012 to more than $650 million in 2017. In particular, semiconductors supporting carrier-grade small cells (excluding consumer and enterprise femtocells) will ramp from practically zero revenue in 2012 to a staggering $500 million in 2017.
The number of Wi-Fi enabled devices shipped in 2012 is expected to surpass 1.5 billion. Growth is occurring across many markets including mobile handsets, laptops, media tablets, printers, TVs, and automotive. “Since 2009 over 9 billion Wi-Fi enabled devices have been shipped,” commented Peter Cooney, wireless connectivity practice director, “whilst growth was driven by networking in the early years the smartphone soon became the major market.
Wireless infrastructure equipment revenues continued their downward trend in the second quarter of 2012 reaching only $11.2 billion – a 4.7 percent decrease from the first quarter of 2012 and a 14 percent decrease from the same quarter one year ago. “Total revenues for wireless network equipment reported by the vendors was the lowest amount that we have seen since 3Q 2003; reaching a 35 quarter low,” says Nick Marshall, principal analyst, networks.
The total Bluetooth IC market (including stand alone and combo ICs) is expected to reach $4.3 billion in 2012 — an increase of 21% on 2011. Revenues are forecast to grow at a compound growth rate of over 20% to reach almost $12 billion by 2017.
Companies, governments, and industries are increasingly turning to RFID as they look to modernize their operations, becoming more efficient and enabling quicker, more convenient service. The traditional uses of RFID for the identification of animals, people, and within the automotive sector are continuing to grow and are projected to increase by $2.8 billion from 2012 to 2017. However, ABI Research’s new RFID Market Tracker found that modernizing RFID applications will grow twice as fast with annual revenues derived from these jumping by $4.5 billion in the same timeframe.
Active DAS (distributed antenna systems) equipment revenues are estimated to cross $1 billion by 2013. Active DAS equipment is mostly made up of headend and remote units, which are used to distribute cellular signals throughout a building.