Strong demand for 5G fueled the baseband market to achieve 25 percent growth to $26.8 billion in 2020, Strategy Analytics report said.
Qualcomm, HiSilicon, MediaTek, Samsung LSI and Intel captured the top-five cellular baseband revenue share spots in 2020.
Qualcomm led the baseband market with 43 percent revenue share in 2020, followed by HiSilicon and MediaTek, each with 18 percent share.
5G basebands posted over eight-fold shipment growth year-on-year and significantly contributed to the overall baseband revenue growth in 2020. The baseband market performed well despite the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, trade war with China and shortages.
Niche cellular IoT companies Altair Semiconductor (Sony), Nordic Semiconductor and Sequans saw good traction for their IoT-centric basebands in 2020.
New entrant Apple, which acquired Intel’s smartphone modem business, will join the fray in the next two years.
After two consecutive years of shipment decline, Qualcomm turned the tide in 2020, driven by iPhone 12 design-wins. Qualcomm executed its 5G strategy well with its multi-tier antenna-to-modem strategy in 2020 and established itself as an undisputed 5G market share leader.
5G basebands accounted for over 50 percent of Qualcomm’s total baseband revenue in 2020. However, Qualcomm and the baseband industry face a challenge to maintain healthy pricing in light of an increasing mix of lower priced 5G chips.
Baseband vendors should stay away from price wars and explore new revenue-generating opportunities such as non-handsets, semiconductor content expansion, Artificial intelligence (AI), and 5G cloud gaming services, Sravan Kundojjala, associate director of Strategy Analytics, said.
MediaTek made an early move in 5G and captured the number three spot in the 5G baseband market in 2020 with its 7 nm-based Dimensity 5G SoC family of chips.
MediaTek will continue to gain 5G momentum in 2021 and emerge as the strong number two 5G player thanks to its broad customer base in China.
“MediaTek should keep an eye on its cost structure to compete well with Qualcomm, especially in mmWave 5G markets,” Christopher Taylor, director of the Strategy Analytics RF & Wireless Components service, Strategy Analytics, said.
HiSilicon and Samsung showed strong growth in the 5G baseband market in 2020. HiSilicon’s overall baseband shipments took a hit as a result of sanctions.
Qualcomm, MediaTek and Samsung LSI will benefit from HiSilicon’s challenges. Unisoc, on the other hand, ranked number one in both 2G and 3G markets and showed signs of recovery in 4G basebands. Unisoc has a massive opportunity to capture long-tail 4G demand in India and other emerging markets.