Thursday, February 25, 2010

Short Range Wireless Taking Off

I have posted a couple of reports on near-field communications growing and got a lot of attention at MWC 2010 but short range wireless as a group of technologies is also taking off. ABI Research reports that global shipments of short range wireless ICs (Bluetooth, NFC, UWB, 802.15.4, WiFi) are expected to surpass two billion units this year, increasing approximately 20% compared to 2009. Shipments are forecast to total five billion in 2014.

Bluetooth took more than 55%, following by WiFi at around 35%; the rest of the shipments were made up of NFC, UWB and 802.15.4 ICs. Mobile handsets maintain the highest adoption rate for Bluetooth ICs. In addition to data transmission between mobile handset and Bluetooth headset, the application of Bluetooth technology is gradually moving into computers and consumer electronics products such as laptops, UMDs, and the wireless remote pole of game consoles.

Low power consumption and short range transmission are two key technical features of Bluetooth technology. Furthermore, in December 2009 the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) announced the adoption of Bluetooth low energy (BLE) which opens an absolutely new market for products and devices needing low cost and low power wireless connectivity. Likely vertical markets include healthcare, security, and home entertainment. Chip manufacturing technology migration is driving down chip cost too, and as Bluetooth chip ASPs continue to decline, new business opportunities will be created.

Combination chips, integrating two or more short range wireless technologies to deliver further cost reduction and chip size decreases, are paving the way for another trend in short range wireless IC market development. The three major integration solutions — Bluetooth+FM radio, Bluetooth+WiFi+FM, and Bluetooth+FM+GPS — are forecast to account for more than 30% of all Bluetooth combination chip shipments in 2010. The combination chip using BLE is expected to make up 50% of total Bluetooth combo IC shipments in 2014.

TriQuint has plans to release a combination WiFi + Bluetooth front end module soon and others are probably working on similar architectures for future products. These are becoming ubiquitous functions in all of our electronics from cameras and mp3 players to printers and phones. The best option on my car is the handsfree Bluetooth option for my radio.