The fascinating world of the power supply industry

February 23, 2017 // By Patrick Le Fèvre
The overall market for AC/DC and DC/DC commercial switch mode power supplies (C-SMPS), which excludes consumers and uninterruptible power supplies (UPS), is estimated to be worth between 22 and 25 billion US Dollars. The market has been stable for more than five years and from an outsider’s point of view, could be perceived as a very static industry with a very moderate growth index.

This perception is amplified by a general feeling that the power supply industry reached such a level of maturity that nothing new could really happen, which in fact is not the case. Despite the steady top number, the C-SMPS industry is extremely dynamic, adjusting to market changes, new regulations, emerging new technologies and in permanent transformation, developing products and power solutions for new technologies in their early stage such as 5G and Industry 4.0.


Segments transformation

It would not be possible to go into details for every segment but there is one, which has had a major influence to all other, the Telecom/Datacom segment. For decades, the Telecommunication segment has been predominant and one of the main technology driver for innovations within the power industry. We all remember the evolution in power distribution, moving from centralized-power to de-centralized power, which has been then adopted by other industries, becoming the worldwide power-architecture in all segments from Industrial to Defence. The same was true for the introduction of digital power technology, which is now used in many products operated in non-telecom segment.

All those technology evolutions have been driven by the need to make telecom equipment more energy efficient, to reduce energy consumption and carbon footprint. Integrating what used to be a central telecom office down to a chipset has had a big impact on the volume of power modules consumed by this industry but as well on how the power is distributed and optimized. At the peak days of 2000, the worldwide production of 5 to 20W board mounted DC/DC converters for the telecom industry was close to the 35 million units. For 2017, the estimates for a similar category of products going in the telecom industry are under 6 million units. We all know that the telecom market has reached a certain level of saturation but they are other reasons explaining this impressive decline in volume: a higher level of integration and an increase use of discrete solutions.