Integration - The wireless future

Thursday, July 19, 2007

As the wireless companies forge alliances to outpace one another, there are fewer and fewer things left to be done from a system design perspective. There will definitely be outstanding issues (e.g. seamless mobility in WiMAX) that will eventually be solved, but the core technology has already come to be. All changes moving forward are likely to be incremental, of course not taking into account an impending migration of cellular wireless to OFDM (the time-frame for which is not very clear at this moment).

A lot of the leading players in the industry have realized that their unique selling proposition (USP) may no longer lie in their original core competency area and have sought to accessorize themselves with other wireless technologies as well. More importantly, as the market matures, the margins available for the players are likely to fall drastically even if they have multiple technologies in their kitty. Thus is born a niche area: Integrated Wireless Solutions.

What do I mean by Integrated Wireless Solutions anyways? I am talking about the ability of the same wireless chip or card to support multiple technologies. Qualcomm's Snapdragon platform has 3G cellular capability along with GPS functionalities. Plans are on to incorporate WLAN and blue-tooth into this platform. The company is already pitching this as the ultimate dream-solution for any dream-phone. The idea is fairly clear, provide to the phone manufacturers, this all-in-all solution at a cost they cannot resist. This would result in a win-win situation with the chip-vendor also making more profit per unit sold, of course at the cost of other single technology providers who would consequently be marginalized.

The Qualcomm approach has been to have a cellular core around which all the other items can be added. Its nemesis, BroadCom, however has taken a top-down approach to get to the same place. Originally adept in WLAN, BroadCom has slowly expanded its portfolio to include bluetooth, added 3G with Zyray's acquisition, and most recently completed the set with the acquisition of Global Locate and its GPS solutions. Though BroadCom is behind perhaps in the design process, some careful planning can position it as a leading competitor to Qualcomm. Other WLAN majors have also pretty much taken BroadCom's approach but do not yet possess the complete capability to integrate.

What this means is that the other small and big semiconductor companies need to obtain access to these technologies, through internal development, acquisitions or through strong alliances.

Though I have briefly discussed integrated solutions in a fairly abstract form in this article, I intend to jot further ideas on effective strategies for different companies moving forward, the integration time-frame, logistics as time permits. Please also watch out for write-ups on the mobile GPS market, since the incorporation of Location-based services perhaps would be the most immediate of integration efforts to happen.

Posted by Vijay Nagarajan at 12:34 AM  

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