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WiMAX is entering its seminal year with more than 200 infrastructure deployments underway and a WiMAX-capable mobile PC platform expected from Intel in the second quarter. With these developments in place and additional devices on the horizon, IDC expects worldwide WiMAX semiconductor revenue to reach nearly $480 million this year, growing to $1.2 billion in 2012, which means very rapid deployment of equipment.

Sales are expected to ramp steeply in 2008, driven by the infrastructure buildout required to support WiMAX. Carrier base stations and customer premises equipment (CPE) has been shipping for more than a year and should accelerate with the release of Intel Centrino 2 notebook platform. As WiMAX gains traction, manufacturers will develop the economies of scale and cost reductions that will enable the technology to find its way into a wider range of products, including digital cameras, personal media players, and mobile phones.

“The technology has evolved from terrestrial to nomadic to mobile over the last several years and further enhancements to the standard can be expected in the months ahead. The next year, however, will tell us a great deal about consumers’ interest and acceptance of WiMAX. With competing technologies closing the performance gap, this will be a critical period for WiMAX’s future,” said Flint Pulskamp, program manager of wireless semiconductors at IDC.

Although IDC believes the prospects for broad WiMAX adoption are good, a number of challenges must be overcome for the technology to achieve its full potential. These challenges include quality of service (QoS) and reliability as well as the power consumption of the chipset. Cost is also a lingering issue, although increased production should help drive down chipset costs. Finally, the WiMAX operators will need a viable technology upgrade path to help justify further infrastructure investments.

“As WiMAX debuts and the first generation of products hit the market, the industry will quickly assess the adoption and future potential of WiMAX as a viable technology. If the early results are promising, then we can expect some significant shifts in the vendor base and supply chain as major chipset vendors move into the market,” added Mr. Pulskamp.

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