Silicon shootout: Analyzing the market's WiMAX chipset vendors

Pascal Deriot, Senior Analyst, WiMAX & LTE Equipment  maravedisDespite the global financial crisis, shipments of mobile WiMAX chipsets will reach 4 million by the end of 2009, representing a 155 percent year-over-year growth. With Intel continuing to be a driving force behind WiMAX penetration in the laptop market, Yota demonstrating fast profitability, Clearwire finally deploying its ambitious POPs coverage plan and strong competition amongst WiMAX chipset vendors driving down chipset prices, many dynamic contributions in the second half of 2009 will significantly impact WiMAX take-off in 2010.

However, several key factors have negatively impacted the growth rate, including the LTE threat, the immaturity of the WiMAX certification process, the 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 base-band chip and a companion RF transceiver IC. However, most of the available chipsets are not highly optimized because they were compelled 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. However, few players have the scale to effectively address all segments and no global leader has emerged in 2009.

Similar to WiFi 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 and optimized Bill Of Material have significantly reduced the footprint of the WiMAX platform, allowing 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.

The new research report released by Maravedis in partnership with Reveal Wireless entitled "WiMAX Wave2 Subscriber Station Chipset Vendors Competitive Analysis" provides a detailed comparison of the key WiMAX chipset vendors, identifies system architectures, estimates chipset and system BOM, cost of available devices such as CPEs, USB dongles or Express Cards, and analyzes vendor product roadmaps and SWOT. The next challenge for most WiMAX chipset vendors will be to find the right balance of R&D investments between a transition to LTE, and a more integrated and cost effective path for their WiMAX solution...Continued

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