Qualcomm dominates mobile radio ICs market
TechInsights' Teardown.com has conducted roughly 400 teardowns on mobile handsets and tablets beginning July 2012. Almost 100 of these included full BOM analysis and costing analysis, from which 10 per cent were WiFi-only tablets. The remaining 90 per cent were units that contained a cellular chipset (from 3G to LTE) of some kind.
Of the roughly 80 units analysed, Qualcomm was present in 70 per cent, making it the undisputed leader in the sample. This is also reflective of the vendor's market share and its own claims as the leader in this space. Though Qualcomm is the leader, this doesn't mean it has no competition. The teardowns also documented ICs from Intel (15 per cent) and MediaTek (10 per cent). Four units were powered by other chipset vendors.
For RF transceivers, the teardowns documented Qualcomm appearing 76 per cent of the time (some units had more than one part), followed by Intel (13 per cent), MediaTek (nine per cent) and Broadcom with the rest.
For separate processors that are not integrated into the cellular modem IC, roughly half were with separate applications processors. The bulk of these (18 units) are of the Qualcomm APQ80xx family. Samsung Exynos processors account for ICs in seven devices, Apple for six, Nvidia for five, Intel for four (tablets) and Texas Instruments for three (2012 vintage units). At that rate, it isn't surprising why TI exited the mobile application processor market in 2012.
Ninety per cent of the teardown candidates came with WiFi, Bluetooth, or both functions incorporated into the IC. The dominant player for these combo radio ICs was Broadcom (33 per cent of the units), followed by Qualcomm (25 per cent), Murata (10 per cent) and a few others. It should be noted that Broadcom was the dominant IC integrated into our decap analysts of the modules made by Murata and others, having their WiFi/Bluetooth die embedded in the supplier's package.
Clearly, Qualcomm is a dominant player, but it is not the only player. Samsung has been keen to marry up its high-end Exynos processors with relatively inexpensive HSPA/HSPA+ cellular modems in some HSPA devices or to use Exynos in its WiFi tablets. Qualcomm has yet to win the WiFi/Bluetooth space, but it is catching up to the leader, Broadcom.
- Joel Martin