More than 1 billion products will be shipped with embedded wireless local-area network (WLAN) technology this year with more than 2 billion to be shipped in 2015, according to IHS iSuppli. My own experience, as well as the experiences of many of you, substantiates this exceptional growth.
My wireless connections took off when I decided to cut the Ethernet cord to my desktop PC. My desktop is huddled under a desk at the south wall of my house and my wireless router was close by since I connected the two with a short Ethernet cable, causing all sorts of wireless connectivity problems throughout the rest of the house.
I thought my purchase of an 802.11n router with its greater range would solve the problem, but it didn’t. If I connected at all to wireless devices in the rest of the house, many times I got only a single bar. It wasn’t until I started researching the problem that I realized what was wrong.
To get the best reception all over the house, I had to move the router to a more centralized location. That’s wireless 101, but it didn’t click with me right away, since I was so used to having the router right next to my PC.
My latest desktop includes both an Ethernet port and WLAN, unlike my previous desktops, which only had an Ethernet port. I placed the router in my basement, near the ceiling, equidistant from all of the walls of the house. I no longer have trouble connecting with four bars to every wireless device in the house, the number of which is constantly growing.
IHS iSuppli tracks 28 major categories of electronic products that are adopting WLAN technology. These devices include PCs, cell phones, digital cameras and camcorders, home and handheld video game consoles, televisions, set-top boxes, and portable navigation devices.
I don’t know about you, but my set-top boxes aren’t wireless, and neither are any of my televisions. They’re connected by cable to my cable service provider’s modem. But desktop and notebook PCs, cell phones, video game consoles, handhelds, and tablets are all on my list of wireless devices.
So where is future growth expected to come from? During the next few years, IHS iSuppli says the fastest growth in embedded WLAN will be generated by other categories of devices. Leading the way will be automotive electronics head units, whose embedded WLAN penetration will rise at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 98.2% from 2010 to 2015.
The penetration of embedded WLAN technology in LCD TVs will rise at a CAGR of 77.8% from 2010 to 2015. By the end of 2015, a significant majority of LCD TVs will include embedded WLAN, up from 2% in 2010 and 9% in 2011. Other fast-growing segments in the coming years will be digital camcorders and still cameras, DVD players and recorders, and e-book readers.
The Chips Move to Wireless
IHS iSuppli also reports that the wireless segment is expected to overtake computers to become the world’s leading application market for semiconductor purchasing by OEMs starting in 2011.
As you might expect, this boom is being fueled by sales of smart phones and tablets. OEMs in 2011 are forking over $55.4 billion for the semiconductors used in wireless devices, up 10.7% from $50.1 billion in 2010. In contrast, OEMs will spend $53.1 billion on semiconductors used to make computers, up a scant 1.2% from $52.5 billion in 2010.
Beyond the rise of wireless, OEM semiconductor spending trends also reflect the ascension of Apple. The IHS iSuppli report noted that Apple became the world’s largest OEM semiconductor buyer for the first time ever in 2010, surpassing perennial leader HP.
Thus, the supremacy of wireless as an OEM semiconductor spending category also is partly a consequence of Apple’s domination of hot mobile markets—and its primacy in the supply chain.
For more information on these topics and related developments, check out “Evolution of Standards Blurs Lines for Wireless Connectivity Applications” and “Semiconductor Spend Analysis” at www.iSuppli.com.