The year 2002 was a great year for wireless LAN component manufacturers, with sales of wireless LAN chip sets growing strongly over the previous year, despite a very slow world economy and a slow semiconductor market in general. The high tech market research firm, In-Stat/MDR, reports that most of these sales were driven by the huge popularity of 802.11b products (WiFi). However, 802.11g products have started to arrive with great customer acceptance, and 802.11a and combo chips will also play importantly in the mix. "2002 could be best described as a transitional year for wireless LAN; both for chip makers and the standard overall," says Allen Nogee, a principal analyst with In-Stat/MDR. "It was the year that wireless LAN made the transition from niche application to mainstream technology and one in which chip makers refined their strategies and formed alliances and partnerships in preparation for the long haul. In addition, it was a year in which direct-conversion architectures, using RF CMOS, gained legitimacy and a year where Bi-CMOS and super heterodyne designs had their supporters as well."

In-Stat/MDR has also found that:

  • Despite terrorism concerns, a very slow worldwide economy and a horrible time for semiconductor manufacturers in general, wireless LAN chip sets sales grew to more than twice the level of the previous year, to over 20 million.
  • In 2003, the amount of growth in wireless LAN does not show any sign of slowing down. With wireless LAN chip prices still dropping rapidly and the number of uses for these chips increasing just about every day, there is no question that the growth of wireless LAN will continue. In 2003, the number of chip sets forecast to be sold will reach over 33 million and by 2007, the number of wireless LAN chip sets is forecast to be over 94 million.

Fueling the growth is one giant application with a second, potentially giant, application in the wings. The current giant application is the laptop, perhaps the original wireless LAN application that started it all. Both Intel and Microsoft want to see wireless LAN included in all new laptops sold and all indications are that soon it will be. In-Stat/MDR is forecasting that by the end of next year, over 70 percent of new laptops purchased will come with some type of integrated wireless LAN support. The second, potentially giant, wireless LAN application is wireless LAN embedded in a cellular handset and used for voice-over-IP (VoIP). While this application is still in its infancy, the potential for hundreds of millions of wireless LAN chips is certainly present.

The report, "The Wireless Road Ahead - The Wireless LAN Chip Market Today and Beyond," covers wireless LAN technology from both a standards and component point of view, and explores the many changes occurring in the industry. In addition, the report takes a look at the companies making WLAN chips and the products they are developing. The report contains chipset forecasts through 2007, including chipsets by standard and WLAN chipset revenue by standard. Breakouts are included for the home and enterprise, and include subtotals by type of end-product device, along with forecasts for WLAN chips in laptops and cellular handsets.