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Silicon Labs buys Redpine Signals as Wi-Fi 6 Gathers Steam

As the era of the Internet of Things (IoT) rapidly approaches, connectivity is becoming the biggest driver of semiconductor growth, and Wi-Fi 6 looks set to take the lion’s share.

To capitalise on growing demand, IoT-focused chipmaker Silicon Labs has inked a $308 million deal to acquire Redpine Signals’ Wi-Fi 6 silicon, along with its bluetooth assets and development center in India.

Though often overshadowed by 5G, Wi-Fi 6 promises to be even more disruptive. The jump up from Wi-Fi 5 will create up to 12 gigabytes per second of data transfer per connection. This could potentially open up a whole new world of connected devices that can all share the same network without straining battery life. As such, shipments of new Wi-Fi 6 chips are expected to grow from 500 million units in 2019 to around 4 billion in 2023, outpacing demand for 5G.

“Redpine has created highly-differentiated, low-power multiprotocol SoCs.” said Venkat Mattela, founder and CEO of Redpine Signals in a statement. “Low-power Wi-Fi 6 is a key wireless technology for connectivity in IoT devices.”

With Redpine’s low-power Wi-Fi modules, Silicon Labs hopes to put Wi-Fi 6 to work enabling more IoT technologies to be used in commercial and industrial applications.

“Although Wi-Fi 6 is still a nascent, emerging technology, we expect to see traction for it in the IoT market in years to come,” said Matt Johnson, Silicon Labs’ vice president of IoT products.

Broadcom and Qualcomm are currently leading the Wi-Fi 6 market, with products including routers, access points, and smartphones.

But on a smaller scale, a steady flow of mergers and acquisitions is happening that could create worthy competitors for these behemoths, and also help the companies involved overcome slow growth in the broader semiconductor industry.

In a megadeal last June, Infineon paid a nearly 50% premium on the share price to buy Cypress Semiconductor, a leading player in low-power Wi-Fi 6 chips. A few months later in August, enterprise networking company Extreme Networks acquired Aerohive to get its own edge in Wi-Fi 6. Then in December last year, NXP Semiconductors acquired Marvell’s Wi-Fi and Bluetooth Connectivity Assets in another deal focused on putting Wi-Fi 6 to work in Industrial IoT.

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