Wimax Wave2 chipset vendors gear up

Pascal Deriot/Maravedis
14 Dec 2009

Despite the global financial crisis, shipments of mobile Wimax chipsets will reach four million by the end of 2009, representing 155% year-over-year growth.
Many dynamic contributions in the second half of 2009 will significantly impact Wimax takeoff in 2010. These include Intel enabling penetration of the laptop market, Yota demonstrating fast profitability, Clearwire finally deploying its ambitious POPs coverage plan, and strong competition among chipset vendors driving down chipset prices.

However, several key factors have negatively impacted the growth rate, including the threat from LTE, immaturity of the Wimax certification process, overall network deployment delays and the lack of compelling devices.

The Wimax subscriber station chipset ecosystem is acutely fragmented, with more than 14 chipset vendors competing for market share. This puts pressure on vendors with insufficient customer traction, lacking funding or scale, or offering only partial chipset solutions.

Several early movers that entered the Wimax market with fixed or Wave1 mobile solutions are now shipping Wave2 compliant chipsets, mainly composed of a baseband chip and a companion radio frequency (RF) transceiver integrated circuit. However, most of the available chipsets are not highly optimized because their design is constrained to cover a broad range of application segments.

The five key Wimax chipset vendors have introduced differentiated chipset solutions, enabling them to gain significant leadership in their target market segments. But few players have the scale to effectively address all segments and no global leader has emerged in 2009.

As with Wi-Fi or 3GPP/3GPP2 platforms, Wimax chipset vendors have leveraged their first or second generations to further reduce chipset cost by migrating to a smaller geometry process node and/or by introducing monolithic dies. At the same time, new packaging approaches such as system-in-package (SiP) and optimized bill of material have significantly reduced the footprint of the Wimax platform. This allows device manufacturers to launch a new generation of products that are more appealing, more integrated, and that combine new standards such as 3G and 4G.

A report by Maravedis and Reveal Wireless - "Wimax Wave2 Subscriber Station Chipset Vendors Competitive Analysis" - shows that Wimax mass-market adoption requires ubiquitous coverage and interoperability testing mature (IOT), sub-$10 chipsets that are power- and performance-optimized for each application-specific segment. Three chipset vendors are best positioned to achieve the $10 price target through base-band and RF monolithic die integration in 65-nm.

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