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7 July 2009


Skyworks surpasses RFMD in power amplifier market share

RF Micro Devices of Greensboro, NC, USA lost its lead in the power amplifier market to Skyworks Solutions Inc of Woburn, MA, USA in 2008, according to a report from Strategy Analytics’ RF & Wireless Component market research service, which explores changes in the handset and cellular device power amplifier (PA) market brought about by the economic slowdown and contraction in cellphone shipments, and what this means to PA suppliers in 2009 and beyond.

“The transition from the frenetic demand in the first half of 2008 to a severely depressed Q4 caught many PA suppliers off guard,” says report author Christopher Taylor, director of the RF and Wireless Components service. The rapid growth of handsets has pushed the PA market to $2bn per year, driving the fates of the two largest suppliers, Skyworks and RFMD, which are both dependent on PAs for most of their revenues despite diversification efforts. Both firms and their competitors have invested heavily in new PA products and technologies to meet the demands of the cellphone OEMs for ever more bands, higher data rates and lower PA prices.

PAs for mid-priced handsets took the brunt of the slump, and so suppliers with a high share in PAs for low-cost handsets and PAs for higher-end 3G handsets fared better than suppliers with broad portfolios at all price and performance points. In particular, this helped suppliers of GPRS PAs and RFMD’s W-CDMA PA competitors Skyworks, Avago Technologies of San Jose, CA and TriQuint Semiconductor Inc of Hillsboro, OR. “Both Skyworks and RFMD ended the year with close to one-third of the market, but Skyworks edged slightly ahead of RFMD,” says Taylor. However, in 2009 RFMD should regain its lost position at the top and, as the global economy and the market recover, RFMD, Skyworks and TriQuint stand to benefit the most from the trends in cellular devices, forecasts Strategy Analytics.

“Compound semiconductor-based PAs will continue as the enabling technology for the high-growth 3G and emerging 4G markets,” comments Asif Anwar, director of Strategy Analytics’ GaAs and High Speed Semiconductor service. “However, silicon-based PAs have started to gain traction in low-cost 2G handsets, as underscored by the recent acquisition of CMOS PA supplier Axiom Micro Devices by Skyworks. This acquisition should help Skyworks to maintain share in the recession-resistant low-cost segment of the market,” he reckons.

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