TI Talks Chips

By Eric Griffith

February 06, 2004

The wireless chipset developer says 2003 was a great year for sales and expects this year to be even better.

Consolidation began to hit the usually expanding Wi-Fi market last year and, in some ways, the chipmakers were the worst hit. Two major players lost ground: Intersil sold off its 802.11 chip business and Agere's shifts of focus cost both companies some market share, allowing companies such as Broadcom and Atheros to become the signs of Wi-Fi chip success.

However, don't discount Dallas-based Texas Instruments (TI). Perhaps best known for making the chips in cellular phones (assuming you don't remember the calculators), the company was also very successful with Wi-Fi over the last year and a half, even pushing out speed boosts they called 802.11b+ and 802.11g+ to up wireless LAN throughput.

While TI has taken a backseat to the bickering between Broadcom and Atheros over problems with their own semi-proprietary boosters, the company says 2003 was its best year ever for Wi-Fi chip sales. The company reports shipping 14 million 802.11 units worldwide last year, up about 250 percent from its sales in 2002, according to Remi El-Ouazzane, director of marketing and product management for TI's WLAN business.

"We've been using market data to back up our numbers, and we understand that 53 million chipsets were shipped in 2003, which gives us a 26 percent market share," says El-Ouazzane. He says the new lines of chips were helped by the high demand experienced by customers such as D-Link and 2Wire.

Looking ahead to 2004, he sees three specific segments of the market that TI will play in: the value end for homes, and the mobile and high-end for businesses.

Value will be "plain-vanilla" 802.11g chips, and TI plans to improve the 802.11g+ technology for more throughput. They'll also continue to push their wONE technology for simultaneous use of 802.11a and 11g from a single chipset in routers. Expect more integration between TI's DSL modem solutions and Wi-Fi as well.

El-Ouazzane says that such providers are "more sensitive to the number of [tech support] calls they'll receive rather than saving a buck here and there."

Mobility, long TI's strong suit, will continue to be a focus as well. Bluetooth/802.11 coexistence packages are on the way, as is TI's first cellular/Wi-Fi combination chip for handsets, which is expected to be available in the first half of this year.

"It's a good, better, best strategy," he says.

Originally published on .

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