Growing Role for Single-chip Processors in Handsets
The predicted demise of dedicated, single-chip solutions for mobile phones has been exaggerated, according to ABI Research Vice President Kevin Burden. “The push in recent cellular handset design has also been to combine as many radios as possible on a single chip. These multi-function Combo ICs have gotten all the attention lately. But standalone ICs still have a very significant place in this market.”
Baseband and connectivity processors are the two components where single-chip ICs shine. Single-chip baseband processor ICs made up just 19% of all baseband processors shipped in 2009, but by 2015 that percentage will have grown to 47 percent, for a CAGR of more than 21 percent, according to ABI Research’s latest forecast.
Similarly standalone ICs for connectivity, while losing some ground to combination ICs over time, will still make up 59 percent of shipments in 2015.
“Partly the continued popularity of standalone IC is due to growth in the low-end handset market, where they are more common than Combo ICs,” notes Burden. “But the smartphone market too (particularly with the spectacular rise of Android-based devices) has a continuing need for standalone ICs in order to boost the performance of selected features, as a way of differentiating one’s product from the competition.”
Different sets of vendors stand to benefit from these sustained single-chip markets: for baseband processors these would include Infineon Technologies, ST-Ericsson, Qualcomm and MediaTek. Connectivity chips are made by companies such as TI, CSR and Broadcom.
ABI Research’s new “Mobile Handset Semiconductors” study examines the above topics and analyzes market trends for baseband processors, RF transceivers, applications processors, power management ICs and connectivity ICs. Quantitative forecasts are presented through to 2015 for each product type.