China steps up fabless game

April 12, 2016 // By Peter Clarke
Europe's market share as a supplier of fabless chips to the world market has halved to 2 percent over the last five years while China's has doubled to 10 percent, according to market researcher IC Insights.

China's growth was partly at the expense of the US, which dipped from 69 percent in 2010 to 62 percent in 2015.

China's 10 percent fabless share compares with 8 percent in 2014. The 62 percent held by the US compares with 64 percent in 2014. Taiwan held steady at 18 percent while Europe fell from 3 percent in 2014 to 2 percent in 2015.

Because IC Insights measures IC sales in relation to headquarters location sales from Samsung's wafer fab in Austin, Texas, are counted as South Korean sales and Europe could get a minor boost as Freescale's chip sales, previously attributed to the US are counted as European because of NXP ownership. The totals do not include foundry sales.

IC insights Histogram
Regional chip market share by corporate headquarters location. Source: IC Insights.

As shown, U.S. companies held a 54 percent share of the total worldwide IC market in 2015, which includes sales from IDMs and fabless IC companies. South Korean companies captured a 20 percent share of total IC sales and Japanese companies placed third with an 8 percent share. Chinese companies, which are not present as commodity memory suppliers or other IDM chips, accounted for 3 percent of total IC sales last year.

For historical reasons South Korean and Japanese companies are weak in the fabless IC segment while Taiwanese and Chinese companies are not present in the IDM sector.

Fabless chip supply has been the most cost-efficient business model for some time. Since 2010 the largest growth in this model has come from China and the rest of the world.

IC Insights Pie
Regional fabless chip sales by corporate headquarters location. Source: IC Insights.

Since 2010, the largest increase in fabless IC marketshare has come from the Chinese suppliers, which held a 10% share last year as compared to only 5% in 2010. Meanwhile Europe has been losing marketshare due to the acquisition of its companies, such as Qualcomm's purchase of