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Usual suspects maintain GaAs device dominance

The "big three" GaAs manufacturers in the US account for more than half of the merchant market, and are joined in the top-ten rankings by fabless company Hittite Microwave.

Strong growth at fabless RF component supplier Hittite Microwave has propelled the Chelmsford, MA, company into the world's top-ten GaAs device manufacturers.

Hittite just scraped into tenth place in the new top ten, and is the only fabless company to be represented on the list.

According to Strategy Analytics' survey of the industry's biggest hitters in 2005, there have also been major changes among the rankings of Japanese GaAs chip makers.

Eudyna Devices, Sony and NEC all slipped out of the top ten in 2005, while Mitsubishi Electric and Toshiba gained market share.

Eudyna's fall is perhaps the most surprising. The company, created in early 2004 by a merger between Fujitsu Quantum Devices and Sumitomo Electric Industries' electronic devices division, had been tipped by Strategy Analytics to break into the top five shortly after it formed.

Reasons for the failure to challenge the top tier of US suppliers are unclear, but it is possible that Eudyna has failed to capitalize on the trend towards multi-mode handsets while the likes of RFMD have concentrated on transceiver modules and amplifier-switch integration.

Mitsubishi has gained ground thanks to strong growth in its GaAs MMIC business. "It led supply of GaAs power amplifiers to the Japanese 3G cellular handset market," said Strategy Analytics.

The US trio of RF Micro Devices, Skyworks Solutions and TriQuint Semiconductor continue to dominate the industry, together accounting for 52% of the merchant market.

The combined share of these top three has increased in recent years and this trend is expected to continue, said the market research company: "We believe the North American players will continue to cement their dominance, since they supply the majority of GaAs devices to the strategically important handset market."

While no European companies ranked in the top ten for 2005, Asif Anwar from Strategy Analytics reckons that UK-based Filtronic will feature in 2006.

The foundry, which manufactures PHEMT switches for RF Micro Devices, told compoundsemiconductor.net recently that it now has a second customer lined up, and is expecting to gain a third customer later this year.

Although Filtronic has scaled back its planned fab expansion (see related story), it will still invest around £15 million ($28.4 million) at its Newton Aycliffe facility in the north of England to boost wafer production volumes.

Foundries in the Asia-Pacific region are also set for continued growth as many of the major GaAs device companies look to outsource excess production requirements rather than invest in their own costly upgrades.

Strategy Analytics GaAs vendor market share 2005: North America and GaAs vendor market share 2005: Asia-Pacific and Europe reports are currently available via the company s web site.

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