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RFMD sees WiMAX demand outstripped by 2011

As telecom carriers and electronics manufacturers announce their 2008 plans for WiMAX, the long-distance wireless broadband standard, industry opinions remain divided - RFMD remains diplomatically reserved while Anadigics tells compoundsemiconductor.net it's “critical”.

by Andy Extance
US power amplifier (PA) powerhouse RF Micro Devices (RFMD) expects that although production of WiMAX base stations and handset modules is already gathering pace, it will be eclipsed by “UTRAN LTE” (Long Term Evolution of the 3G UMTS protocol), which will be seen in handsets from 2009.

Nokia has now announced plans to bring WiMAX handsets to market in 2008, while Samsung and Motorola are also developing phones for US carrier Sprint, forcing PA makers to sit up and pay attention.

In its analysis, RFMD predicts that the industry will make 13.5 million WiMAX enabled handsets annually by 2011, in comparison to 63.5 million handsets for LTE, according to the Greensboro, NC, company's managing director of strategic marketing, Alastair Upton.

Upton indicated that there were still a few challenges to be faced in the mobile WiMAX area by the “handover protocol” required to support handsets moving between cells covered by adjacent base-stations.

The transmission power amplification required to achieve the performance linearity the standard demands is also a concern, particularly with regard to power consumption of handsets.

“WiMAX in laptops makes sense, because people are used to charging them as they work, but in a handset the power consumption is critical so a lot of attention has to be paid to the power amplifier efficiency,” Upton said.

Whilst Michels shares Upton s opinions about transmit power issues, he outlined how Anadigics would tackle the problem.

“Early participation in the first mobile WiMAX products, such as PC cards and desktop CPEs, will be important for us to establish a foothold in this market,” Michels explained.

“Following that, Anadigics needs to have the ability to offer solutions for handset applications as well.”

RFMD s cautious approach on WiMAX might see it out-of-step with one of its top customers.

Although Upton was only able to say that RFMD would have WiMAX amplifiers in handsets “in 2008”, Nokia has announced plans to bring its first WiMAX-enabled mobile device to market “in early 2008”.

Michels said: “Anadigics expects to have WiMAX radios available in mobile handsets as early as mid-2008,” leaving the question of who is supplying Nokia's WiMAX PAs, as with so many other areas of the technology, open to debate and speculation.

Andy Extance is a reporter at compoundsemiconductor.net.

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