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Wireless Wide Area Network Chipsets To Soar

Demand for slate-style tablets and eReaders driving opportunity for semiconductor suppliers, says iSuppli.
Shipments of embedded wireless wide area network (WWAN) chipsets for slate-style tablets will soar, creating new growth potential for semiconductor suppliers, thanks to a thriving, emerging wireless consumer devices market, according to market research firm iSuppli.

While almost no embedded WWAN chipsets shipped in 2009, by 2014, 20.7 million will be shipped to the slate-style tablet market, which includes Apple's iPad, the firm forecasts. Additionally, the slate market, which also saw virtually no shipments of embedded WWAN modules in 2009, will see shipments of 2.1 million by 2014, the firm is projecting, for a stunning 498.4% compound annual growth rate (CAGR).

"While the handset market undoubtedly will remain the driving force in the wireless industry, a crop of new wireless consumer devices such as slates, netbooks, eReaders, and portable media players (PMPs) have opened up an adjacent market, offering new opportunities for semiconductor vendors playing in this space," said Francis Sideco, principal analyst for wireless communications at iSuppli, in a statement. "The objective in the wireless industry is no longer simply to achieve ubiquitous coverage, but rather to obtain ubiquitous presence for wireless-enabled devices in every aspect of living. This is the reason why many companies are exploring markets outside of the traditional handset for future growth."

An opportunity has emerged in the handset market for communications requirements to expand the total available market for all the nodes in the wireless value chain, iSuppli said, even though many devices use similar or even the exact same components. In order to provide WWAN connectivity, all the new products use the same methods currently utilized in handsets and laptops: either USB dongles or embedded modules or chipsets, iSuppli said.

Chip vendors are being rejuvenated by the re-emergence of the slate segment in particular, mainly through the Apple iPad and competing products entering the market.

The main driver for the use of WWAN capability in the next five years will be sales of content/multimedia slate devices, according to iSuppli. The wireless device manufacturers are now strategizing that they can leverage their ecosystem across multiple platforms since some smartphones and slates use similar operating systems and chips, the firm said. The growth of eReaders may also spur growth for WWAN, iSuppli said, noting that single-function devices will grow at a nearly 40% CAGR from 2009 through 2014.