While the world came to a screeching halt when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the semiconductor market performed strongly in 2020. Demand by industry was uneven throughout the year due to global lockdowns, remote work, and education, and shifts in consumer buying behavior.
Worldwide semiconductor revenue grew to $464 billion in 2020, an increase of 10.8 percent compared to 2019, according to the Semiconductor Applications Forecaster (SAF) from International Data Corporation (IDC).
The market research company forecasts the semiconductor market will reach $522 billion in 2021, a 12.5 percent year-over-year growth rate. In parallel, the company anticipates continued robust growth in consumer, computing, 5G, and automotive semiconductors.
Supply constraints will continue through 2021; while shortages initially occurred in automotive semiconductors, the impact is being felt across the board in semiconductors manufactured at older technology nodes.
Much like a traffic jam and the ripple effect, a disruption on the semiconductor supply chain operating close to capacity will impact across the supply chain. “The industry will continue to struggle to rebalance across different industry segments, while investment in capacity now will improve the industry’s resiliency in a few years,” the report said.
Looking forward to 2021, there is a continued strong growth in semiconductor sales worldwide as adoption of cloud technologies and demand for data and services remain unchanged. “Global fiscal and monetary policy remain accommodative and will provide a tailwind for continued capital investments in long term infrastructure,” IDC highlighted.
The market for semiconductors in Computing systems, such as PCs and servers, outpaced the overall semiconductor market, growing 17.3 percent year over year to $160 billion in 2020.
“Demand for PC processors remains strong, especially in value-oriented segments,” said Shane Rau, research vice president, Computing Semiconductors. “The PC processors market looks strong through the first half and likely the whole year.” IDC forecasts Computing systems revenues will grow 7.7 percent to $173 billion in 2021.
Growth in Mobile Phone semiconductors was resilient in 2020. “Mobile phone shipments fell by more than ten percent in 2020, but mobile phone semiconductor revenues grew by 9.1 percent due to a shift to higher priced 5G semiconductors, more memory per phone, sensors, and RF support for more spectrum bands,” said Phil Solis, research director for Connectivity and Smartphone Semiconductors.
“2021 will be an especially important year for semiconductor vendors as 5G phones capture 34 percent of all mobile phone shipments while semiconductors for 5G phones will capture nearly two thirds of the revenue in the segment.” IDC forecasts mobile phone semiconductor revenues will grow by 23.3 percent in 2021 to $147 billion.
The Consumer semiconductor market segment rebounded in 2020. Robust sales of game consoles, tablets, wireless headphones and earbuds, smart watches, and OTT streaming media devices fueled segment growth by 7.7 percent year over year to $60 billion.
“Apple, AMD, and Intel showed exceptional growth as consumers upgraded their digital spaces at home,” said Rudy Torrijos, research manager, Consumer Semiconductors. “New gaming consoles from Microsoft and Sony, continued strong sales of wearables from Apple, and the rise in smart home networks managed by Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant will accelerate growth in 2021 to 8.9 percent year over year.”
“Automotive sales recovered in the second half of 2020, but the supply constraints for the automotive semiconductor market for some products will last through 2021 as fires and fab shutdowns further impacted the automotive semiconductor market and it takes time for chips to move through the automotive ecosystem, specifically in the U.S. and Europe,” said Nina Turner, research manager, Automotive Semiconductors. For 2021, IDC forecasts that automotive semiconductor revenue will grow 13.6 percent.
“Overall, the semiconductor industry remains on track to deliver another strong year of growth as the super cycle that began at the end of 2019 strengthens this year,” said Mario Morales, program vice president, Semiconductors at IDC.
“The markets remain narrowly focused on shortages across specific sectors of the supply chain, but what is more important to emphasize is how critical semiconductors are to every major system category and content growth that remains unabated.”