Silicon shootout: Analyzing the market's WiMAX chipset vendors - page 2

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Maravedis and Reveal Wireless believe that WiMAX mass-market adoption requires ubiquitous coverage and IOT mature, 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. Further, the WiMAX market is not large enough to support 14 chipset vendors. Consolidations, exits and transitions toward LTE are expected in the next two years.
The new report also provides an in-depth analysis of key WiMAX chipset vendors. Here is a summary of some of the key findings:

  • Sequans has gained performance leadership mostly in the fixed market. Their whole Wave2 subscriber product line supports UL transmit diversity, which can significantly reduce the cost and power dissipation of the PA subsystem, while improving the uplink budget. Their solution also supports UL MIMO (Matrix A) operation. They clearly lead the pack in terms of chipset cost in 2009 thanks to a very aggressive baseband die-size in 90nm. They were the first to announce a 65-nm single-die BB+RF solution in the first quarter of 2009, which should replace their base-band and RF IC SiP gap filler by 2010 and enable them to maintain their cost leadership.
  • Beceem has first mover advantage in most markets, with the exception of the fixed market where Sequans still dominates. Beceem was first on the market with a Wave2 BB and RF chipset. They have one of the most mature Wave2 Protocol Stacks, which has enabled them to gain sockets with all the leading mobile operators. Their product portfolio is very broad, with specific chipset for each segment, including a single-chip base-band and RF SiP based on a 65-nm baseband die. They were the first to introduce a single-chip WiMAX VoIP Network-Processing-Unit SiP in 2008.
  • Intel demonstrated their BOM integration leadership by introducing a complete dual-band WiMAX RF subsystem SiP that embeds the RF transceiver, PA, filters, switch, and power management functions. Intel dominates in the embedded compute segment where they have leveraged their WiFi 11n leadership, and the strength of their Centrino brand and ecosystem. Intel was the first to introduce a dual-mode WiMAX/WiFi 11n 1x2 chipset based on a WiMAX/WiFi baseband SiP and a multi-band RF transceiver IC paired with a Front-End-Module.
  • GCT has been the most aggressive in terms of monolithic silicon integration, using mature 130-nm CMOS process. They were the first to introduce a single-die base-band and RF solution, initially for the Wibro/Wave1 market. Their solution is currently the only Wave2 single-die in production; they have recently added the support of WiFi 11g. GCT won the WiMAX World power shootout and demonstrated low-power leadership in USB dongle and PCIe minicard applications.
  • Samsung Electronics has not extended its reach outside of its internal captive chipset market. SEC provides chipset solutions only to the Samsung device divisions, which have a strong presence in the portable and mobile segments with products such as data cards/USB dongles, embedded mini-cards for Samsung laptops, MIDs and handsets.
  • While Runcom is focusing on niche end-to-end markets and is no longer considered as a player in mobile WiMAX, Tier2 players such as Wavesat, Comsys, Altair, and Mediatek could emerge and potentially challenge the leading vendors in some specific applications. Wavesat is bringing its programmable PHY solution to maturity and is gaining traction in Japan with PHS OFDMA evolutions launched by Willcom. Comsys has been targeting multi-mode mobile markets with an integrated Edge/WiMAX baseband SoC, leveraging the maturity of their 2.5G modem and protocol stack. Altair has demonstrated ultra low-power SDIO solutions optimized for the mobile market. Mediatek is gaining traction in the fixed market and has the expertise to emerge as a low-cost leader when the market matures.

Pascal Deriot is a senior analyst and partner for WiMAX and LTE Equipment at Maravedis, and has over 20 years of multidisciplinary experience in the mobile handset business, including semiconductors, cellular phones and wireless technologies. Maravedis is a leading analyst firm focusing on disruptive technologies including smart networks using WiMAX, IEEE, and 3GPP/LTE. Maravedis works with system and service providers, vendors, regulators, and institutional investors. Learn more at www.maravedis-bwa.com

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