@CTIA: Checking the pulse of the WiMAX chipset space

**As published in RCR Wireless News** LAS VEGAS – As the official spring-time gathering of the wireless industry came to a close, RCR Wireless News met with the No. 1 and No. 2 WiMAX chipset manufacturers to check the temperature of the space and learn more about their progressive plans for LTE. Both Beceem and Sequans started in 2003 to make a play in the emerging WiMAX space, but one got an early and definitive lead. Now, as both continue to try to out-maneuver one another in the fast-growing WiMAX market, each is readying its war chest and industry heft in a much-more crowded and competitive landscape in LTE. Lars Johnsson, VP of marketing and business development at Beceem, pegged the Silicon Valley-based company’s share of the WiMAX chipset space at about 65% while his counterpart at Sequans, Craig Miller, VP of marketing and business development, pegged the Paris, France-based company’s share at upwards of 25%.

Johnsson said the company shipped more than 4 million units last year and it is projected to surpass 10 million units this year. That growth will help Beceem reach a cash-flow positive status on its WiMAX business this year as well, he told RCR Wireless News. At least half of the WiMAX market is still the fixed variety and of the mobile portion about half of that is comprised of USB dongles, he added. Of course all of that is about to change and Sequans is playing a significant role as the chipset provider behind the standout device coming out of CTIA – the HTC Evo 4G at Sprint Nextel Corp. The 3G/4G device packs full WiMAX capabilities alongside the specs needed for the more saturated and larger 3G network at the nation’s No. 3 carrier. With Sprint Nextel’s recently announced plans to reach 120 million potential customers with its 4G network by year-end, there’s a huge upside for Sequans as it stands to gain incredible presence in the market through sheer sales of the carrier’s likely flagship device for its fresh-off-the-ground 4G network. Sequans has already partnered with HTC Corp. on products for several years so if the Evo 4G becomes a hit, the chipset maker will surely gain even more business. Sequans’ WiMAX business is self-sufficient, Miller told RCR Wireless News, and its business is projected to triple this year, not including the interest it’s been generating among at least four other major operators across the world. Surely, Sequans hopes the experience it’s gained with HTC and Sprint Nextel will prime it for a good position in the LTE space. As to be expected, both companies made their initial moves in the WiMAX space due to the early-on interest and growth under that technology. But now, both have their sights set on LTE and each has their own flavor of chipset ready for the first push. From a technology and strategy standpoint neither company is willing to put all of its chips in technology over the other. Instead, Beceem and Sequans are treating their WiMAX and LTE businesses as separate units with separate funding outlooks and business prospects. Depending on whatever growth and interest they see in the LTE space, both companies could have to reach back in the pockets of venture capitalists to fund any rollout in LTE that’s as strong as the strides they’ve made in WiMAX.