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Mobile demand doubles Bluetooth IC market growth

Posted: 23 Apr 2013     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:mobile system-on-chip  Bluetooth IC  MSoC  wireless connectivity 

Bluetooth semiconductor shipment is expected to double by almost 100 per cent from 2011 to 2017. According to IMS Research, part of IHS, the global shipments for Bluetooth ICs are seen to rise to 3.1 billion units in 2017, a 91 per cent increase from the 1.6 billion shipments in 2011.

IMS Research's report, "Bluetooth—Classic or Smart Ready," noted that majority of the growth driven by demand for wireless combination ICs and mobile system-on-chip (MSoC) devices with integrated wireless connectivity that are used in mobile devices like smartphones and media tablets.

While shipments of stand-alone Bluetooth chips are substantial, the market is currently dominated by combination ICs that incorporate support for multiple wireless technologies in addition to Bluetooth. However, the fastest-growing segment of the Bluetooth chip market is MSoCs, whose shipments are expected to rise by a factor of 18 from 2012 to 2017.

"Smartphones and media tablets are packing increasing capabilities into products that have a lower cost and a thinner form factor," said Liam Quirke, connectivity analyst at IHS. "All this is driving demand for more highly integrated ICs, including Bluetooth-enabled connectivity chips and MSoCs. Most of the leading smartphone platforms already make use of integrated connectivity ICs, and increasingly will adopt Bluetooth-enabled MSoCs in the future."

No blues for Bluetooth chips
Combination connectivity ICs accounted for 75 per cent of total Bluetooth chip shipments in 2012. However, due to the rise of MSoCs, the combination chips will see their share of the Bluetooth market decline to 55 per cent in 2017, although their shipments will continue to rise as the overall market expands.

By 2017, MSoCs will account for 23 per cent of the market, up from just 2 per cent in 2012 and zero in 2011. Stand-alone devices' share of the market largely will remain flat, declining to 21 per cent in 2017, down from 24 per cent in 2011.

Many of today's most popular and advanced smartphones and tablets are employing combination connectivity ICs.

For example, Apple Inc.'s iPad Mini and iPhone 5 employ Broadcom Corp.'s BCM4334 single-chip, dual-band combo device, as revealed by a dissection of the products conducted by the IHS iSuppli Teardown Analysis Service. The BCM4334 includes support for WiFi and an FM radio receiver, along with Bluetooth.

Based on a virtual teardown, IHS iSuppli believes that Samsung's new Galaxy S4 smartphone includes the Broadcom BCM4335, which integrates Bluetooth, along with the FM radio and a complete 5G WiFi system.

MSoCs multiply
The MSoC takes the integration of combination chips to the next level, forming a single chip that incorporates the cellular base band, applications processor and wireless connectivity.

The release of Qualcomm's Snapdragon S4 family of processors in 2012 integrated these various elements, with many incorporating both Bluetooth and WiFi. In these components, the digital portion of the connectivity IC is integrated into the SoC, taking advantage of benefits such as less power being required by the more advanced manufacturing process. The analogue counterpart is situated in a companion IC, which includes components for both Wi-Fi and FM radio.

"MSoCs benefit manufacturers by reducing design complexity while providing lower-cost mobile platform solutions," Quirke noted. "IHS is projecting that lower-end smartphones will be quick to adopt such solutions."





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