Wireless Systems Design

Wireless Rides The Cyclic Market

Have you ever noticed that even though everything changes, the pattern of change seldom varies? Paradoxically, some things seem to be in constant flux while others seem to remain relatively unchanged. Take the technology markets, for instance. Almost all of the major analysts who track the cyclical ups and downs of the semiconductor industry are predicting a flat year for 2005. Many have called for slightly negative growth in worldwide chip sales and perhaps a 15% decline in chip equipment revenues. These downturns come after a year of record market growth in 2004. It's worth noting that many of these same analysts are predicting healthy growth levels to return in 2006.

A few special markets within the semiconductor family remain relatively steady, however. Because they are riding above the constantly changing semiconductor world, they are seemingly indifferent to its ups and downs. One such market is wireless technology, which has shown steady growth throughout the last four years.

What part of the wireless market will be growing—albeit slowly—in the coming downturn of the general semiconductor industry? In the coming year, cellular handsets and smart phones should show continued growth. Most of this expansion will take place in the Asia-Pacific area. Component sectors that should hold their own include application-specific chips for handsets and the image sensors for digital still cameras and cell phones.

The news is good for the wireless world. Major carriers (telecom) continue to upgrade and roll out 3G wireless networks across the globe. WLANs (datacom) have become a commodity. New wireless implementations are constantly being introduced to the market.

The fact that wireless is riding on top of the semiconductor sinusoidal wave also is good news for the world's economy. Yet it may not be great news for engineering professionals in the U.S. One of the fastest-growing consumer markets for all wireless products is Asia. According to the latest research from iSuppli Corp. (www.isuppli.com), however, Chinese-owned OEMs are taking increasingly dominant roles in producing electronic equipment in their homeland. This trend also is affecting the design side of these products. Chinese engineers are designing more and more of their own wireless consumer products.

The overall pattern for wireless technology—both consumption and design—continues to keep itself above the ups and downs of its semiconductor-market parent. This trend should be encouraging to our readership, which—like the market—continues to pursue a global reach.

Change is inevitable. But the patterns of change seldom vary. The trick is to recognize the correct pattern.

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