TAIPEI, Taiwan Now that the ink is thoroughly dry on the mobile version of WiMAX, Taiwanese system vendors are piling into the market.
Most are anticipating a sharp increase in demand next year for 802.16e products as carriers in the US, Europe and Asia throw the switch on broadband wireless nets and as Intel Corp begins to ship its Wi-Fi/WiMAX module for PCs.
Earlier this week, at a regional WiMAX conference in Taiwan, system design shops like Accton Technology, Asus Computer, Cybertan, Gemtek Technology and Quanta Microsystems showed off 16e gateways, cards and a mobile phone or two.
Most had 16e system prototypes earlier this year and are working with customers on design-ins that will roll into mass production as early as the third quarter. However, the majority will ramp up in the beginning of 2008 and start to seed the market in the middle of the year, around the same time that Intel begins ramping up its embedded Wi-Fi/WiMAX modules.
A couple of companies, such as Alpha Networks, Tecom Co., and Zyxel Communications, have base stations based largely on reference designs from chip vendors. This is a new area for Taiwan companies, who did not design base stations from scratch for cellular networks. Their products are expected to enter field trials in the second half of this year and hot the market during the first half of 2008.
Taiwan chip vendors also aren't jumping into the game early, despite cajoling and incentives by the government. So far, MediaTek Inc is the only fabless firm developing a chip, but its chip isn't expected to be ready until at least late 2008.
"It's hard to invest in this area now for local chipmakers, but Taiwan should have a good chance to capture this opportunity over the long term as WiMAX grows," said Wufu Chen, cofounder of Taiwan venture capital outfit iD SoftCapital Group and a cofounder of Navini Networks.
Few seem to doubt the opportunity that WiMAX will happen, especially now that Intel will ramp its modules next year and the likes of Sprint/Nextel will invest heavily. Chen, a veteran investor in the communications business, said that two or three years ago he questioned whether WiMAX would survive among the competing wireless technologies. "Now, there is no doubt about whether it will be here. It's just a question of how it will be used," he said.