Suppliers say they are racking up orders for structured ASICs across all application segments, with the bulk of activity in communications infrastructure and storage, where unit volumes would justify the expense of a cell-based design.

Average selling prices for Wi-Fi chips will drop by half, to $8 this year, $4 next year and as little as $2 in 2006, predicted Sky Dayton, chief executive officer of Boingo Wireless Inc., a Santa Monica, Calif., startup seeking to establish the underpinnings of an 802.11 roaming service. The company now has deals with 2,600 hotspot operators, Dayton said.

This idea is becoming a bit more mainstream,” said Peter Hopper, chief executive of Philips' Mobile Displays Group. It's a trend we consider important for the mid- to long term.”