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Banner year edges PA market towards $2bn

Strategy Analytics says TriQuint made up ground on RFMD and Skyworks last year, while the effects of a recent dip in handset shipments in Europe and Japan are likely to hit suppliers equally.

As cellphone power amplifier (PA) makers enjoyed industry-wide sales increases in 2007, TriQuint trumped the rest of the field by gaining nearly 5 percent market share.

According to market analyst Strategy Analytics review of the global PA market, 2007 was a “banner year” in which total sales grew 12.6 percent overall to reach $1.94 billion. Approximately 90 percent of this market value was accounted for by GaAs PAs.

“RF Micro Devices and Skyworks slipped slightly in market share in cellular PAs in 2007,” said the report's author, Chris Taylor. “Much of this lost share went to TriQuint, which moved ahead of Renesas as the third-ranked supplier in terms of revenue on the strength of its broad line of compact PAs, PA-switches and PA-duplexer-filter modules.”

Regardless of the individual companies comparative performances, they all benefited from consolidation amongst PA suppliers and 16 percent growth in the total number of handsets shipped over the year.

Overall, this momentum has carried over into 2008, with Gartner s first quarter global handset analysis showing 14 percent higher shipment numbers over the same time in 2007.

However, Western European sales dropped for the first time since Gartner started keeping records "“ down more than 16 percent on the previous year. Japan also saw lower numbers of handsets being shipped, with a 10 percent fall compared with 2007. Sales of high-end devices, which typically include the most GaAs content per phone, were particularly weak.

“This kind of slowdown is going to affect PA companies across the board,” commented Asif Anwar, director of Strategy Analytics GaAs and compound semiconductor program. “However, we don t see there being a long term trend for decreasing high-end sales.”

Anwar pointed out that Japanese PA makers like Renesas and Mitsubishi Electric dominate the Japanese market and are the most likely to be affected by these regional variations.

Meanwhile, annual handset shipment growth exceeded 20 percent across emerging markets. The “non-Japan” Asia-Pacific region in particular bought more handsets than North America, Western Europe and Japan combined and retained a 26.6 percent annual growth rate.

Strong growth in markets such as these, which are typically dominated by low-cost handsets, will be very welcome to PA makers, Anwar said.

“GaAs is still well entrenched in the low-end market,” he emphasized.

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