IHS forecasts a 7% drop in 2019 chip sales as prices plummet in memory, blockchain miners disappear, and mobile phone sales drop. This is consistent with many other data points, such as TSMC's quarterly earnings. Lower prices for memory chips and most others are holding down equipment pricing, including PC's and phones.
Four sectors stand out in the chip business.
5G wireless chips can only be produced on TSMC's 7-nanometer production line or by Samsung, mostly for its own use. Huawei and Qualcomm are producing 5G chips with reasonable yields at TSMC. Six months ago, 5G phones were not expected before the summer because Apple had bought out most of TSMC's 7 nm production. The decline of iPhone sales opened some capacity and Qualcomm is supplying chips to Xiaomi, Oppo, Vivo, and ZTE. China Unicom is offering phones from those four, Huawei, and I believe Samsung.
Qualcomm's prices are reasonable enough that Xiaomi announced 5G phones at US$600, which others will match. Intel is now out of the market. MediaTek and UNISOC are behind, so Qualcomm has little incentive to adjust prices. IHS emails me:
In the near term, our analysts don’t see much pressure on BOM pricing due to the strong Qualcomm market presence but in the longer term, BOM prices will be under pressure as soon as China Mobile comes online with their 5G SA network. It is also unlikely that semiconductor manufacturing (of application processors and modems) will drive the market into oversupply.
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