Makers, however, continue to export more 802.11g wireless routers as demand from developing regions rises.
Wireless routers compliant with the 802.11n standard have captured the mainstream in China, owed to the increasing requirement on higher data rates and the growing number of compatible devices. They accounted for 50 percent of the country’s total output in 2010, and the figure is projected to reach 60 percent this year. With a maximum transfer speed of 450Mbps, these products are mostly adopted in SOHOs and small-scale enterprises. Targeting a larger user base, suppliers are expanding lineups to include 802.11n+ versions, which can raise the data rate to 600Mbps. MTN Electronic (Shenzhen) Co. Ltd is among the makers planning to roll out such models in the months ahead.
Although the minority in China’s overall yield, units based on 802.11g/g+ lead shipments abroad as more manufacturers emphasize emerging markets due to the slow economic recovery in developed regions. East & West Technology Co. Ltd, for example, has been concentrating on the Middle East and Africa since 2010. These areas currently account for 45 percent of the supplier’s exports. MTN, meanwhile, will boost marketing efforts in Asia and South America, specifically in Brazil and Russia. It reported demand from the latter two areas increased by at least 25 percent YoY in 2010, and expects the trend to persist in 2011. New users and those requesting for upgrades are the primary order generators.
Variants operating via 802.11b/g/g+ and with data rates of up to 108Mbps are classified as low-end, and go mainly to Asia, the Middle East and Africa. They support 64/128-bit WEP, WPA and WPA2 wireless security, AP client mode, WPS and hidden SSID. A 10/100Mbps LAN switch with auto-MDI/MDIX is integrated in most models. Prices are from $13 to $17.
Midrange and high-end units comply with 802.11n draft 2.0, with data rate reaching 300 and 450Mbps, respectively. The latter category’s speed is boosted through 3x3 MIMO technology. A built-in 3G module is optional for both, and all features in entry-level kinds are supported. Products are quoted at $20 to $38, and shipped mainly to Europe and North America.
Regardless of positioning, most models operate on ADSL/ADSL2+. Although many Internet users still employ the traditional ADSL, a growing number are shifting to the former for better transmission rate and quality. ADSL/ADSL2+ versions also go into sleep mode when the transfer speed of the receiver is low or reaches zero, thereby reducing the power consumption.
While there have been no other technology enhancements in the line aside from the adoption of the latest wireless standard, suppliers continue to add value to their products. MTN has released units with a built-in Li-ion battery. Its 40-member R&D team also plans to roll out models with VPN and SBN functions in coming months. These find wide use in enterprise networks. Kasda Digital Technology Co. Ltd has launched variants with a USB port for connecting with external 3G modules. It has also introduced versions with adjustable antennas.
Last year’s prices of wireless routers from China decreased significantly because of the lower cost of IC, which account for 35 to 45 percent of total outlay. The drop in the latter was estimated at 10 to 20 percent. In the months ahead, chipset rates are projected to continue sliding, but suppliers will keep quotes at current levels due to increasing labor expenses. Shenzhen in Guangdong province, for instance, raised the minimum monthly wage by 16 percent to $162 in 2H10.
To buffer rising overhead, most companies favor the less expensive ICs from Ralink and Realtek over Broadcom and Atheros. Models from the third, for instance, are 10 to 15 percent more pricey than those from the first two.
Amid stable prices and despite cost challenges, makers in China are confident of higher sales in the next three years. Most expect at least 20 percent growth even as the line reaches maturity. The optimism stems from the increasing acceptance in developing regions and surging demand from the home, SOHO and enterprise segments. Cooperation with local telecom operators will also sustain the industry’s development.
There are 150 manufacturers in the country, and this number is forecast to remain steady until year-end.
Hong Kong’s selection of wireless routers includes units with a Wi-Fi radio, 802.11n and a DECT base station with a diversity antenna. The hybrid configurations combine the functions of three communication and data devices, thereby eliminating the need for more set-top boxes.
Cheung Hung Electronics Ltd’s model H5010 3.75GHz wireless router, for example, supports up to four DECT handsets. It has one WAN and two LAN ports, and operates within 50m indoors and 300m outdoors.
The line also covers stand-alone Ethernet+Wi-Fi versions and 3G kinds supporting HSDPA, HSUPA or EV-DO.
Aside from a WLAN antenna and RJ-45 ports for LAN and WAN connections, the latter variants have a SIM card slot and boast 3G routing over other functions.
Manufacturers likewise provide customized units for target applications. Some offer 3G varieties for industrial use with DHCP, DNS, NTP and DNAT support, IP-IP tunneling, VPN client, metal casing and optional backup battery.
Makers such as Lanbowan HK Ltd accept buyer-specified requirements on antennas, including 2.4GHz, WiMAX base station and village-to-village communication types. The company also offers an array of wireless routers from Ubiquiti Networks.
White is the predominant motif in exterior design. Some models have a silver, black or gray finish.
The territory has at least 10 suppliers. Most now concentrate on OEM, EMS and distribution of major brands from mainland China, Taiwan or the US.
Those that continue to carry out ODM activities assist buyers from idea optimization, usability analysis and product design up to mass production and QC. They include cordless phone specialists.
The manufacturing base comprises computer peripherals providers, networking specialists and antenna suppliers. Some enterprises seek distributors for their in-house brands, which also come with logistics and marketing assistance.
Besides the yuan appreciation and rising costs, most makers are concerned about the potential negative effects of the anti-dumping and safeguard investigation started last year by the European Commission. The case covers WWAN modems and Wi-Fi routers originating from the mainland, where Hong Kong companies’ factories are located.
Compact designs and value-added features lead product development initiatives in Taiwan’s wireless router industry. Targeting mobile professionals and travelers, portable units come in smaller form factors and commonly support one LAN port and 1T1R specifications. They also have an automatic switch function to enable cable/xDSL connection when 3G is not available. Value additions include NVR, UPnP, iPhone Internet tethering, Ethernet switch and firewall. Some models also integrate a server such as Samba/FTP, webcam, wireless print and media types.
Another key trend is incorporating two networking standards for enhanced compatibility. There are versions supporting both 3G and Wi-Fi, and others that enable the latter and WiMAX. The first combination is usually present in dual-WAN variants.
Billion is among makers that offer dual-WAN routers with 802.11n and 3G. Its SG6200NXL model has two USB 2.0 ports for attaching 3G modems that allow 3.5 or 3.75G connectivity. The unit is also equipped with home area network solutions for ZigBee compatibility.
In general, wireless routers from Taiwan operate on Wi-Fi, 3G, WiMAX and ZigBee. Those with 802.11n are currently the mainstream, and most for release this year will be based on the standard. A few are still on 802.11a, but their number continues to decline due to low compatibility with the current wireless devices. 3G routers, on the other hand, are forecast to grow in output as demand rises. They support up to 3.75G, and HSDPA and CDMA protocols.
Most ADSL2/2+ models adopt 802.11n. These are ideal for multimedia applications such as video and music streaming, VoIP and peer-to-peer networking. MIMO versions, meanwhile, enable 3G and have up to four Gigabit Ethernet ports supporting 10/100/1,000Mbps data rate. These come in 1T1R, 1T2R, 2T2R, 2T3R and 3T3R architectures. Broadband units with one or two LAN ports are commonly used in home and small offices.
Variants with 802.11b/g are priced at $27 to $30, while 802.11b/g/n are between $31 and $35. Those supporting all four go for $40 or above. Models come with chipsets from Atheros, Ralink, Broadcom or Marvell.
Amigo Technology Inc.
Argtek Communication Inc.
Billionton Systems Inc.
East & West Technology Co. Ltd
Edimax Technology Co. Ltd
Kasda Digital Technology Co. Ltd
MTN Electronic (Shenzhen) Co. Ltd
Note:This article was originally published by Global Sources, a leading business-to-business media company and a primary facilitator of trade with China manufacturers and India suppliers, providing essential sourcing information to volume buyers through our e-magazines, trade shows and industry research.
All price quotes in this report are in US dollars unless otherwise specified. FOB prices were provided by the companies interviewed only as reference prices at the time of interview and may have changed.
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