Shipments of “combo” chipsets for mobile devices that gather a variety of connectivity types in one small package are expected to approach 280 million worldwide by the end of 2010.
Integrating different radio technologies such as FM, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and GPS on a single chip may sometimes involve performance compromises, but saves money, space and power. ABI Research (http://www.abiresearch.com) forecasts that more than 979 million such chipsets will ship in 2015.
“The market for combo chipsets is taking off, but somewhat more slowly than was originally expected,” says research analyst Xavier Ortiz. “Mobile phones are the main market for these combinations today, although ABI Research believes that for true mass adoption, combos will have to penetrate other product types that require short-range wireless: laptops and consumer electronics devices.”
The combination most commonly found in cell phones is Wi-Fi+GPS. Wi-Fi+Bluetooth combos have seen slower adoption due to performance issues, because both technologies use similar frequencies, so they must alternate transmissions to avoid interference. Nonetheless, that is something many mobile handset manufacturers are prepared to accept for the sake of fitting greater functionality into a smaller package.
However we can expect to see ‘Bluetooth+Bluetooth Low Energy’ combinations replacing “traditional” Bluetooth chips, since the added cost is insignificant. More than two billion are expected to ship in 2015 and eventually Bluetooth/BLE combos will be universal in the Bluetooth segment.
“Combos are finding their way into newer devices more than they are being retrofitted to older models,” says Ortiz. “Many companies we speak with say that when they were using pre-combo standalone chips, they built relationships with a number of OEMs, and mixed-and-matched to fit their needs. While their newer devices may use combos, for their existing time-tested devices they prefer to stick to the proven solutions.”
Some of the leading vendors are Broadcom, TI, CSR, Atheros, and Qualcomm with its Snapdragon platform.