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Fabless Wireless Growth Cycle Ahead: Will 2012 be the breakout year for NFC?


The foundation is already solidifying for increased wireless capabilities; smartphone and tablet PCs are easily the dominant technology demanded by consumers and enterprises this year.  What enterprises and consumers will next demand of their increasingly feature-rich devices is a driving question for R&D, but fables wireless semi companies are betting that it means increased data transfer over wireless networks.

We know that data are accumulating at breakneck paces and increasingly being demanded by users at shrinking time cycles.  What that means is that not just data input and recording of data are driving memory component demands to meet form factors, but also that these data must be transferred across networks and between devices more seamlessly and rapidly (for a more detailed discussion of semi's growth sectors, see Smith's latest MarketWatch Quarterly available now with a free subscription or in October to the general public).  The consumer and enterprise expectation for streamlining devices that must also be more feature-rich is the demand driver, and it is a very powerful one, particularly looking to 2012 forecasts.

Fabless wireless companies are ramping up after their own wait-and-see period during which various technologies, terminals and equipment varied according to geography and company.  Now that more cohesion has entered the wireless sector, due to technology/architecture maturation and increased agreement by the various ODM and OEM companies, rapid time-to-market is driving new SoC solutions for wireless communications in smaller form factors, as reported here by ElectroIQ. As the fabless wireless companies provide more options to ODMs and OEMs, there is, in turn, an increase in consumer and enterprise wireless solutions for devices.  This is a strong underpinning for a positive growth cycle for the wireless semiconductor sector.  As ElectroIQ reports:

"Fabless wireless semiconductor companies are putting out new chips and breakthrough technologies, adding 'growth momentum' to the semiconductor industry value chain as a whole, according to a CyberMedia Research study, "The Fabless Wireless Communications Industry 2011: Analysis of Key Players.""

Among the more active technologies in the wireless semiconductor sector is Near Field Communication (NFC) solutions.  NFC is the means by which new wireless payment methods are being presented to consumers and businesses; the means by which smartphones and tablet PCs are able to communicate over a secured network when in relatively close proximity in order to complete a purchase transaction.  The forecast for NFC payments is strong with the likelihood of 2012 being the 'breakout' year for this technology to really gain a foothold and increase penetration (see this report from ElectronicsWeekly)iSuppli's recent report on NFC technology revealed the following:

"Driven by strong demand for mobile electronic payment and other compelling applications, shipments of cellphones equipped with near field communication (NFC) technology are set to rise to 544.7 million units in 2015, up nearly tenfold from 56.2 million in 2010, according to a new IHS iSuppli Mobile and Wireless Communications report from information and analysis provider IHS."

While 2010 has seen most of its growth in only a few sectors, wider growth across many sectors is not precluded because the devices in greatest demand are also being seen as opportunities for pursuing new features and capabilities.

Lisa Ann Cairns, Ph.D.
Written on Tuesday, 27 September 2011 11:20 by Lisa Ann Cairns, Ph.D.

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