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Lively WiFi 6 chip track

Release date:2021-12-28Author source:KinghelmViews:458

Not long ago, Xiangfeng Investment announced to invest in Longli Semiconductor. This semiconductor company established in March 2021 is a company focusing on the design of short-range communication chips such as WiFi. From its establishment to the acquisition of 110 million yuan in angel round investment It only took 5 months, which also shows that WiFi chips are getting more and more attention from the market.

From the recent development of many manufacturers dedicated to the research and development of WiFi chips, chip manufacturers such as Qualcomm, Broadcom, Marvell have launched Wi-Fi 6 chips, and domestic companies such as Espressif Technology and Broadcom Integration have also launched related chips. In addition, Aojie Technology, which was listed on the Science and Technology Innovation Board this year, also wrote in its prospectus that it plans to deploy a commercial WiFi6 chip project. According to the semiconductor industry observation, there are dozens of start-ups related to WiFi 6 chips in China.

Predictably, this track has become more and more lively.

Changes brought by WiFi 6

The advent of the Internet of Everything era provides a new round of development opportunities for wireless technology. Wireless technologies such as WiFi, Bluetooth and Zigbee have become the darlings of this era. Especially with the development of AI technology, more and more emerging applications need to be connected to the network, and at the same time, there are more and more video-related applications.

In this case, WiFi technology with fast transmission speed, long transmission distance and lower cost than other wireless technologies has become the protagonist of the Internet of Everything. According to Gartner, by 2025, 72% of all IoT connections will use WiFi and Zigbee transport technologies. From the perspective of total volume, according to IDC data, the global WiFi chip shipments will reach 4.9 billion in 2022, accounting for more than 40% of the shipments of major mainstream interconnection solutions. It can be said that WiFi is the most important solution in the mainstream solutions. one.

WiFi 6 is the latest WiFi technology currently applied in the market. A change brought by WiFi 6 to the industry is a change in name. The Wi-Fi Alliance will be IEEE 802.11ax renamed to Wi-Fi 6 in 2018. A number of notable improvements have been added, which may be even more important for wireless users.

In terms of technical changes, the theoretical speed of WiFi 6 is 10Gbps. It achieves speed improvements through the combination of 2.4GHx and 5GHz spectral bands, and adopts MU-MIMO technology to improve the transmission of data on both uplink and downlink connections. Compared with WiFi 5, the data transmission speed of a single device using WiFi 6 is Up to 40% increase. In addition, WiFi 6 also enables more devices to access WiFi 6 without congestion through a series of new technologies. At the same time, WiFi 6 also improves the battery life of devices accessing WiFi 6 networks, which makes IoT devices are more inclined to use WiFi 6 technology.

The lively market demand has also driven the prosperity of WiFi 6 chips. In addition to traditional WiFi chip manufacturers increasing their investment in WiFi 6, WiFi 6 chips have also become the choice of some start-ups. And we all know that chip manufacturers such as Qualcomm operate in a fabless mode. As a result, their promotion of these chips has also promoted the demand for wafer foundry. According to public information, the 6nm RF was released in TSMC. (N6RF) process, they also said that they will bring the power consumption, performance, and area advantages of the advanced N6 logic process to 5G radio frequency (RF) and WiFi 6/6e solutions.

The development status of WiFi6 chip

A new round of competition around WiFi 6 chips is underway. Judging from the current market situation, WiFi 6 chips are mainly divided into IoT WiFi 6 chips and router WiFi 6 chips.

From the perspective of the market demand for router chips, in February 2020, Xiaomi founder, chairman and CEO Lei Jun officially released the annual flagship Xiaomi Mi 10, introduced the Xiaomi Mi 10 equipped with WiFi 6 technology, and released the first Xiaomi AIoT router supporting WiFi 6 together AX3600. Not long ago, Xiaomi released the Xiaomi router AX3000 with a new generation of WiFi 6 technology.

In addition to Xiaomi, Huawei, ZTE, TCL, OPPO, etc. have also launched routers that support WiFi 6. It is worth noting that WiFi 6 routers have moved from the price of 1,000 yuan last year to the 100-yuan market. It is foreseeable that as the WiFi 6 router market begins to increase in volume, with WiFi 6 routers, players such as Xiaomi and Huawei will seize the traditional market. The market share of router manufacturers, which also means that their rise has changed the router market. With the centralized launch of these Wi-Fi 6 routers, the router WiFi 6 chip market has also begun to rise.

From the perspective of the global market, Qualcomm, Broadcom and Marvell have all launched related products for the WiFi 6 chips required by the router market. In Taiwan, MediaTek and Realtek's router WiFi 6 chips have been recognized by the market. There are not many players in mainland China dedicated to router WiFi 6 chips. In addition to Huawei and Sichang Communication’s development in this field, Longli Semiconductor, which was mentioned at the beginning of the article, also aimed at the router WiFi chip market.

The Internet of Things is another big blue ocean market for WiFi 6 chips. Compared with the complex router WiFi 6 chips, there are dozens of domestic companies working on IoT WiFi chips. Chip manufacturers have also reported good news one after another. In February this year, Broadcom integrated the IoT WiFi 6 chip and obtained the WiFi 6 certification test from the WiFi Alliance. In April this year, Espressif launched a RISC-V IoT chip that supports WiFi 6.

Relevant media reports have pointed out that at this stage, the shipments of chips supporting the WiFi 6 standard are still in the initial stage, and with the gradual application and promotion of the WiFi 6 standard, it is estimated that in 2023, the chips supporting the WiFi 6 standard will be in the total WiFi chip. The proportion of WiFi 6 chips will reach 90%, and the market size of WiFi 6 chips will be 24 billion yuan.

Challenges of WiFi 6 Chips

Previously, Zhong Lin of Jinjiang Sanwu Microelectronics Co., Ltd. pointed out that MediaTek's WiFi chip has the highest market share in the router market and the Internet of Things market, and he is the king of cost performance.

However, for the current domestic manufacturers who are committed to WiFi 6 chips, before talking about the price-performance competition, they need to pay more attention to the challenges that still exist in the research and development of WiFi 6 chips.

Zhong Lin of Jinjiang Sanwu Microelectronics Co., Ltd. once pointed out that according to the feedback from domestic companies, there are two difficulties in the development of WiFi6 chips: the underlying protocol/communication protocol + algorithm and the radio frequency front end (PA+LNA+SW). Compared with WiFi 4 and WiFi 5, the underlying protocols and algorithms of WiFi 6 chips are more complex, and the RF front-end design is also more difficult. However, the performance of the RF front-end is not up to standard, and the Wi-Fi 6 chip will not come out.

Therefore, with the development of the WiFi 6 chip market, the WiFi 6 RF front-end market is also a focus of attention - how to design a lower power consumption, high linearity, high integration and high anti-noise Wi-Fi 6 front-end RF The product is the challenge ahead, and for the WiFi 6 RF front-end field, there is also competition from another group of manufacturers.

In this field, Qorvo and Skyworks are both leaders in the field of WiFi 6 FEM, and with the outbreak of the domestic WiFi 6 market, local manufacturers including Zhuoshengwei, Sanwuwei and Shanghai Kangxi are all laying out the WiFi 6 FEM market.

It should be noted that the router and IoT markets also have different needs. According to the introduction of relevant persons, from a design point of view, IoT WiFi rarely has external FEM, but router WiFi generally adopts external FEM mode. Integrated WiFi and WiFi FEM are used on mobile phones, while high-end mobile phones often choose an external WiFi FEM. Therefore, this also provides a variety of ways for domestic manufacturers to break out of the WiFi FEM market.

Another difficulty of the WiFi 6 chip is the underlying protocol/communication protocol + algorithm. Zhong Lin once pointed out in the article "Sanwuwei will help domestic WIFI6 chips succeed" that the solution to the underlying protocol/communication protocol is to understand the protocol standard more and do more testing, while the algorithm is the core competitiveness and requires a high level of design.

He pointed out that domestic WIFI6 chip companies cannot do without two foreign IP companies, CEVA and Imagination. In terms of progress, in August 2020, CEVA has been able to provide a complete set of WiFi 6 IP ranging from 1x1 20 MHz for low-power IoT devices to applications including smartphones, smart TVs, access points and wireless MIMO 80/160MHz Wi-Fi 6 and 6E for high-end products such as infrastructure.

Imagination also launched products related to WiFi 6 IP in June last year. Also of note is that in December last year, Nordic Semiconductor announced the acquisition of the entire Imagination Ensigma Wi-Fi development team and related Ensigma Wi-Fi IP technology assets, extending its wireless expertise into WiFi.

There are also reports that, given that Nordic is a company focusing on the IoT market, its Wi-Fi product form is likely to appear in the form of SoC or SiP, so Wifi 6 should also be their best entry point.

Based on the above information, whether from the perspective of the WiFi 6 terminal market or the challenges faced by the WiFi 6 chip, WiFi 6 has given semiconductor manufacturers a lot of room for development. With continuous layout, perhaps the competition for WiFi 6 chips has just begun...

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