Incredible journey ahead for WLANs - Embedded.com

Incredible journey ahead for WLANs

Despite a slow economy, wireless LAN (WLAN) chips were a bright spot in an otherwise dismal 2001 worldwide chip market, according to In-Stat/MDR. The market research firm reports that the number of WLAN chips sold worldwide in 2001 managed to top 8 million chipsets, up more than 23% from 2000.

The company says early indications illustrate that device sales, and resulting chipset demand, are already up sharply this year when compared with the end of 2001. In 2002 chipset units are forecast to exceed 14 million units, an increase of 75% from last year's depressed numbers.

“The incredible journey for WLAN chips is just beginning,” said Allen Nogee, a senior analyst with In-Stat/MDR. “For many years, the use of WLANs has been limited to a very few specialized vertical applications. However, as new standards like 802.11a and 802.11g are introduced into both the home and the enterprise, the market will move in a new direction, gaining even greater momentum.”

While the enterprise will account for the largest consumption of wireless LAN chipsets in 2002, it's the home market that will experience the largest growth rate.

Not only are home users adopting WLAN devices for their conventional computer connectivity needs, but other residential uses for WLAN chips, such as wireless video pads, are starting to become popular, especially in Asia.

In-Stat/MDR also found that despite an increase in units shipped in 2001, chipset revenue decreased 4% from the previous year, to $216.9million, as a direct result of rapidly eroding WLAN chipset prices.

However, WLAN chipset revenue is expected to increase to $324.5million in 2002, an almost 50% increase from the year earlier.

Currently in the enterprise, as in the home market, 802.11b accounts for almost all the WLAN chipsets sold to date.

However, says In-Stat/MDR, this will be changing very quickly. The enterprise has anxiously awaited a faster technology to become available, and that is currently happening in the form of 802.11a and 802.11g. Both standards offer data rates up to 54Mbps, but actual throughput is likely to be approximately half of that.

Over 13 million 802.11a chipsets will be sold into the home market in 2006.

A report published by In-Stat also takes an in-depth look at some of the companies making WLAN chips.

Published in Embedded Systems (Europe) May 2002

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