ABI Research recently reported that the total market for standards-based wireless connectivity ICs is expected to exceed 3.5 billion units per annum in 2011. “Broadcom leads the market with Qualcomm, CSR, and Texas Instruments all snapping at its heels,” says Peter Cooney, practice director, semiconductors. The market will total more than $11 billion per annum by 2014.
Wireless connectivity technologies are well-established in many electronic device markets. Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and GPS are becoming ubiquitous in certain devices, such as smartphones, with attach rates approaching 100% in some cases. Rapid growth is forecast for newer technologies such as NFC and 802.15.4. Wireless connectivity technologies also continue to progress at a fast pace, with new developments such as Bluetooth v4.0 (with low energy being a key facet) and Wi-Fi moving to the 802.11ac standard and 802.11ad coming in the future. As attach rates increase, combinations of different wireless connectivity technologies have been developed to address the needs of customers. "Combo ICs" have become increasingly important, particularly in the smartphone, laptop, and media tablet markets (among others). Standalone ICs are not dead, however, and there are many compelling reasons that not all markets will to move to combo ICs.