The first quarter upturn in the semiconductor market has proved to be a bubble, according to market researchers, Forward Concept, who specialise in the DSP sector. DSP shipments, though, have not experienced an upturn but are running almost even with last year. Consequently, Forward Concepts has lowered its earlier 15% DSP market growth forecast to the 5% level. At least we can say that's better than the 31% downturn of last year.Because of the US telecom bankruptcies, both actual and almost, we don't see an early turnaround in the wireline market. So, we're also lowering our 2003 DSP forecast to the 20% level, down from the earlier 33% prediction. Although there are pockets of telecom growth, like packet-based IP PBXs, the big iron market will have to wait until at least mid-2003 for a sustained recovery. We expect a healthier pickup in 2004 and beyond, as packet-voice (VoIP) applications become significant (especially in China), and wireless resumes its march to total pervasiveness in all of our lives.DSP shipments to the wireless market are up a healthier, but lackluster, 15%. That moves its share of the DSP market to a record 60% level, an increase over last year's 55% share. A key observation is that average selling prices (ASPs) of DSPs into the wireless market are actually increasing; up some 13% for the first five months of 2002. Unfortunately, that increase is the key to most of the revenue growth thus far this year. The ASP increase can be attributed to the increasing DSP (and RISC) processing resources (speed, memory and accelerators) required for 2.5G (over 2G). With even more processing capabilities and resources required for 3G, we see increasing ASPs for this market segment continuing for at least the next couple of years before leveling off and declining in line with the rest of the chip market. We project only a 4% growth in cellphone unit shipments, to the 405-million level this year.Wireless infrastructure growth has stalled, with 2.5G and '3G-lite' slowing down and UMTS 3G being pushed out by nine to twelve months over earlier industry plans. DSP revenues into the smaller wireless infrastructure market are expected to decline by some 5% in 2002.In spite of near-term market setback, DSP remains the technology driver for the recovering semiconductor industry, since without DSP there is no access to the Internet, no multimedia, and no wireless communications.
Published in Embedded Systems (Europe) October 2002