The latest estimate from market research firm TrendForce puts sales revenue worldwide from fabless IC design for 2016 at US$77.49 billion, a decline of 3.2% from 2015. However, TrendForce expects strong growth in several application markets in 2017, such as automotive electronics. The global fabless IC design industry’s annual sales revenue will grow again in 2018 by 3.4%, totaling around US$80.59 billion.
The annual decline in the 2016 sales revenue has been mainly attributed to the high degree of maturity in many end device markets. Branded vendors of smartphones, tablets and notebooks have found that there is very limited room for further growth. Likewise, the global semiconductor sector has matured to the point where industry participants are facing technological bottlenecks that have slowed sales revenue growth for fabless IC design. Nonetheless, the margin of annual decline for 2016 is estimated to be smaller than that of 2015. This underscores that design houses are starting to benefit from the opportunities in the high-growth vertical application markets, including automotive electronics and servers.
TrendForce’s outlook on the fabless IC design industry for 2017 indicates that the increasing availability of the 10nm process technology for mass production will generate robust sales for components used in flagship shipments. Other major sales revenue drivers for next year will come from vertical application markets such as data centers, automotive electronics and network infrastructures. If the world economy remains stable in 2017, TrendForce forecasts that the global fabless IC design industry will return to positive growth in its sales revenue with a projected annual increase of 3.4%, amounting to around US$80.59 billion.