As wireless connectivity attach rates increase in many markets and OEMs continue to push for cost savings, IC vendors such as Broadcom, Qualcomm, TI, Marvell, MediaTek, and others, have created integrated wireless connectivity ICs to gain market share.
These chips known as Wireless Connectivity Combo ICs have already seen rapid adoption in smartphones and are now seeing strong usage growth in many other end applications including laptops, flat panel TVs, and automotive infotainment systems. Total annual market shipments are expected to surpass 2 billion units by 2017.
"Combo ICs have seen strong adoption in the smartphone market as attach rates of Bluetooth and Wi-Fi are very high. This move towards combo ICs has not only helped reduce BoM costs but has also changed the competitive environment entirely," commented Peter Cooney, practice director. "Whereas once there were many competitors, all focused on individual technologies, there are now fewer vendors with wide product portfolios able to push combo ICs into many new markets."
In 2011 smartphones accounted for almost 60% of total wireless connectivity combo IC shipments. This is set to change significantly over the next five years as other markets such as laptops and tablets start to use combo ICs in ever-increasing numbers. There are also a whole range of other markets including feature phones, games consoles, health and medical equipment, home automation gateways, and many more that will adopt combo ICs as penetration rates for wireless connectivity technologies increase.
"The next phase in market development is the further integration of wireless connectivity technologies into platform ICs. This is already starting to happen in the smartphone market and is expected to accelerate as lower-end smartphones, with tight costs constraints, become the largest section of the market over the coming years," added Cooney. "We expect many vendors to follow the path that Qualcomm is setting with its snapdragon 4 platform."
Although the snapdragon 4 platform is not fully integrated (it currently uses a separate RF chip for connectivity) it shows a clear progression towards more fully integrated solutions. Intel's recent announcement of its "Radio Free Intel" strategy shows that integration continues to be a major focus for many IC vendors.
This article originally appeared on EE Times Europe.