The ramp-up of the Intel Ice Lake and AMD Milan processors is expected to not only propel growths in server shipment for two consecutive quarters from 2Q21 to 3Q21, but also drive up the share of high-density products in North American hyperscalers’ enterprise SSD purchases, according to TrendForce’s latest investigations. In China, procurement activities by domestic hyperscalers Alibaba and ByteDance are expected to increase on a quarterly basis as well. With the labor force gradually returning to physical offices, enterprises are now placing an increasing number of IT equipment orders, including servers, compared to 1H21. Hence, global enterprise SSD procurement capacity is expected to increase by 7% QoQ in 3Q21. Ongoing shortages in foundry capacities, however, have led to the supply of SSD components lagging behind demand. At the same time, enterprise SSD suppliers are aggressively raising the share of large-density products in their offerings in an attempt to optimize their product lines’ profitability. Taking account of these factors, TrendForce expects contract prices of enterprise SSDs to undergo a staggering 15% QoQ increase for 3Q21.
Looking ahead to 4Q21, TrendForce expects a decline in server shipment to bring about a corresponding downward correction in enterprise SSD procurement capacity. Meanwhile, clients will continue to validate higher-layer PCIe G4 products from Kixoia and Micron. On the other hand, as the shortage of SSD components becomes alleviated going forward, enterprise SSD suppliers’ production capacities will likely increase as well. As a result, enterprise SSD contract prices for 4Q21 will likely remain relatively unchanged from 3Q21 levels.
Suppliers are making a strong push to develop PCIe G5 and CXL products as these new interfaces become available for server applications next year
Intel and AMD are expected to kick off mass production of Eagle Stream and Genoa CPUs, respectively, in 1H22. In addition to being compatible with PCIe G5, these server processors will also support the CXL (Computer Express Link) interface. TrendForce’s investigations indicate that NAND Flash suppliers have been fast-tracking their production of PCIe G5 SSDs in response to the upcoming mass production of Eagle Stream. As such, these SSDs are likely to see market release between 2Q22 and 3Q22.
Micron, on the other hand, has also announced its development of CXL products. Because CXL enables optimized data transmission between CPU and other components, such as memory, GPU, ASIC, and FPGA, memory solutions with CXL interface are likely to experience rapid growth in the hyperscale market, which is constantly in pursuit of faster data transmission speeds. TrendForce believes that the release of increasingly fast data transmission interfaces will bring about a massive increase in the expenses and technological challenges associated with SSD controller IC development. Enterprise SSD suppliers will subsequently have to jostle for market share by leveraging their respective unique competitive advantages.
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Chinese and European suppliers of base station equipment are expected to once again account for a global market share of more than 70% in 2021, and the top three suppliers (along with their respective market shares) are, in order, China-based Huawei (30%), Sweden-based Ericsson (23%), and Finland-based Nokia (20%), according to TrendForce’s latest investigations. Remarkably, although Huawei remains banned by the US government, the company still manages to dominate its competitors in terms of market share due to its products’ cost advantages as well as the enormous demand from the domestic Chinese market.
It should be pointed out that Samsung has similarly benefitted from its relatively low costs and successful 5G commercialization efforts, both of which helped propel its market share this year to 12.5% and secure the fourth place in the global ranking. Not only is Samsung supplying base station components to the three largest mobile network operators in Korea, but it is also collaborating with operators in the US (including AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon) while having established supply agreements with NTT DoCoMo in Japan. On the other hand, Japanese supplier NEC has received its first ever overseas orders this year, from British mobile network Vodafone. Japan-based Fujitsu, likewise, has also been chosen by the British government as an alternative supplier of 5G base station equipment in place of Huawei.
TrendForce indicates that the proliferation of distance learning and WFH applications has brought about a massive 40% increase in average global network bandwidth consumption as the world works to bring the COVID-19 pandemic under control. As such, the 5G network is able to satisfy the current market demand due to its high bandwidth and low latency characteristics. Furthermore, as 5G commercial demand rises in various countries, the GSA (Global mobile Suppliers Association) announced that “the number of announced 5G devices has surpassed 800 for the first time and now stands at 822 announced 5G devices”. These products, including both consumer and enterprise applications, have been released in response to the demand for faster, more convenient network connections across a broad range of applications. In sum, all of the aforementioned factors are drivers of increased 5G base station build-out worldwide.
Key to Huawei’s market share leadership, 5G users in China account for 90% of the global total in 2021
Owing to the ongoing China-US trade war, both Huawei and the three largest mobile network operators in China have been barred from engaging in investment-related activities with US companies. In addition, in July 2021, the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) finalized a US$1.9 billion plan that subsidizes domestic telecom companies to replace base station components from Chinese suppliers, such as Huawei and ZTE, that the FCC considers a potential risk to US national security. Huawei and ZTE have subsequently become unable to acquire key RF front-end components from US suppliers, thereby prompting Huawei to shift its base station infrastructure business towards the domestic Chinese market instead.
Regardless, TrendForce’s findings indicate that, as of late-2020, the number of 5G users in China surpassed 160 million, which represented about 89% of the global total. As of July 2021, the three largest mobile network operators in China, including China Mobile, China Unicom, and China Telecom, have established 916,000 5G base stations domestically, which comprise 70% of the global total. Not only does this number point to the impressive magnitude of the Chinese telecom market, but it has also been the key to Huawei’s leadership in the base station market for nearly two years.
The massive rise in market demand for notebook computers in response to distance learning needs and WFH applications from 2020 to 2021 has generated not only a double-digit growth in notebook panel shipment, but also a price hike of more than 40% for notebook panels, according to TrendForce’s latest investigations. As various suppliers subsequently scramble to manufacture OLED, LTPS, and oxide panels, TrendForce forecasts these high-end notebook panels to reach a 17.8% market share in 2021 and 21.4% in 2022.
Panels based on OLED technology are primarily supplied by SDC, whose OLED notebook panel shipment for 2020 reached 800,000 pcs. SDC is expected to ship more than four million pcs of OLED notebook panels in 2021, with room for further growth in 2022. In addition to SDC, EDO is also expected to begin mass producing OLED notebook panels in 2H21-1H22. As such, TrendForce expects OLED panels to reach a 1.3% penetration rate in the overall notebook panel market this year. Although BOE and CSOT are currently fully engaged in Hybrid OLED development, Hybrid OLED panels will not enter mass production until 2023 due to technological and cost-related bottlenecks that are yet to be resolved.
The top three suppliers of LTPS panels are, in order, AUO, CSOT, and Tianma. Thanks to such advantages as low power consumption and narrow borders, LTPS panels are widely used in high-end notebook computers. In the overall notebook panel market, LTPS panels are expected to reach a penetration rate of 3.7% this year. With regards to LTPS suppliers, AUO will likely expand its L6K fab’s production capacity of LTPS notebook panels in 2022. Innolux, on the other hand, currently allocates the LTPS production capacity in its Luzhu-based panel fab primarily for smartphone displays. Innolux is expected to mass produce LTPS panels for notebooks some time in 2H21. CSOT and Tianma will likewise gradually increase the share of LTPS notebook panels in their overall panel production in spite of their lack of capacity expansion plans at the moment.
Finally, oxide panels are primarily supplied by LGD, Sharp, and BOE. Much like LTPS panels, oxide panels have the advantage of low power consumption and narrow borders. However, oxide panels are relatively more cost-competitive compared to LTPS panels, as the former require fewer mask layers during the manufacturing process. Hence, oxide panels currently possess the highest market share among all high-end notebook panel types. TrendForce expects oxide panels to reach a 12.8% penetration rate in the notebook panel market this year. With regards to suppliers, IVO and HKC are expanding the production capacities at the Kunshan-based Gen 5 fab and Mianyang-based Gen 8.6 fab, respectively, for oxide panels this year, while CSOT is also planning the same for its new Gen 8.6 fab in Guangzhou. Once these three suppliers finalize their expansion activities, their oxide panel capacities are expected to exceed 70K sheet/m, and these capacities will be gradually available for mass production across 2022-2024.
The arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic last year prompted enterprises to accelerate their digital transformation efforts. As such, the year 2020 marked the turning point for the AR/VR industry, with an increasing number of global enterprises now paying close attention to AR/VR headsets and applications. Two such applications which show the most significant short-term growth are “virtual collaboration platform” and “remote support”, particularly in the relatively small-scale AR headset markets.
TrendForce indicates that annual AR headset shipment is expected to increase from 580,000 units in 2020 to 1.3 million units in 2021; on the VR headset front, annual shipment is expected to increase from 4.43 million units in 2020 to 5.65 million units in 2021, with the key enablers of these shipment growths being entertainment applications from the consumer side and commercial applications from the enterprise side.
It should be noted that, however, as VR headsets have lower prices and technical barriers to entry compared to AR headsets, many companies are opting to purchase consumer VR headsets for use in commercial applications. Despite the growth of the AR/VR headset market in recent years, the ongoing shortage of semiconductor components is expected to put some downward pressure on these headsets’ shipments this year.
Enterprise demand is the primary driver of telecom companies’ efforts to combine 5G with AR/VR applications
With remote commercial applications generating an increasing demand for AR/VR headsets, use cases such as remote interaction and real-time sharing of 3D objects will require an enormous amount of network bandwidth. Likewise, the demand for low-latency and smooth user experiences will continue to drive 5G demand from the commercial sector, thereby compelling major telecom companies such as Ericsson, China Mobile, NTT DoCoMo, and Chunghwa Telecom to release dedicated 5G plans geared specifically for AR/VR applications in order to ensure the highest quality connections for these applications.
For telecom companies, building 5G infrastructure demands an enormous cost, but the current use of smartphones is unable to completely saturate the total 5G bandwidth. In other words, telecom companies are unable to recuperate their 5G investment costs, and this predicament is what led them to seek out other applications/products that can potentially make use of 5G connectivity, such as IoT, video streaming, and AR/VR.
What should suppliers that aim to enter the AR/VR markets pay attention to?
TrendForce believes that suppliers wishing to enter the AR/VR markets must take into consideration two factors, which are “cost” and “profit distribution”. First of all, both AR/VR headsets and dedicated 5G connections require enormous investment costs. Most companies involved in these applications are therefore still in the small-scale trial period at the moment.
Given the limited funding that these companies are allocating, real-life user experience has suffered as a result, leading to a reduced willingness by potential clients to continue adopting AR/VR solutions going forward. For instance, if network infrastructures do not provide sufficiently comprehensive coverage or sufficiently high bandwidth, the resultant latency or signal loss can lead to poor remote collaboration experiences on the user side.
The second issue that suppliers must confront has to do with profit distribution. Most AR/VR solutions are provided to users at a flat subscription fee which covers the costs of AR/VR headsets, 5G network connections, and software platforms. This type of flat fee structure is attractive for customers as it is relatively simple and straightforward.
However, on the supply side, the fair distribution of profits among AR/VR headset suppliers, telecom companies, and software platform vendors remains a critical issue. In particular, since AR/VR headsets and 5G networks are all extremely costly, along with the fact that the 5G rollout is still in its infancy, unfair distribution of profits can potentially lead to certain suppliers being unwilling to participate in the AR/VR market in the long run.
As the pace of electrification accelerates in the global automotive market, and various governments worldwide implement subsidy policies that encourage consumer EV purchases, sales of new energy vehicles（NEV, which includes BEV/PHEV/FCV）are continuing to rise as well. NEV sales for 2021 are projected to reach 4.35 million units, a 49% increase YoY.
Due to the vast scale of the Chinese market, as well as domestic policies favorable for the growth of BEV/PHEV/FCV, various NEV brands have quickly emerged in China in recent years, such as BYD Auto, Aion（formerly GAC NE）, and BAIC BJEV. At the market’s peak, NEV manufacturers in China once numbered in the hundreds, although that number has since dwindled somewhat, as the intense competition resulted in declining sales and market shares for many automakers, including BAIC and JAC.
Four rising stars among emerging NEV manufacturers in China include NIO, XPeng, Lixian（or Li Auto）, and Weltmeister, all of which have been shipping tens of thousands of mass production vehicles each year. In particular, while NIO, XPeng, and Lixiang registered significant growths in the past few years, Weltmeister also ranked number two in terms of sales in 2019, though it fell to fourth place in 2020 as it delivered fewer vehicles compared to the top three competitors last year.
In light of the aforementioned four automakers’ current expansions, TrendForce has summarized several key aspects of their growths, including the following:
1. Autonomous Driving Technologies: Autonomous driving is not only part and parcel of these automakers’ core competencies but also a reflection of what consumers and investors expect of the automotive industry. In pursuing advanced autonomous driving technologies, the four automakers have been adopting increasingly powerful processors and computing platforms, with Nvidia being the most common partner among emerging NEV manufacturers. Remarkably, XPeng stands out as the only player making a noticeable effort to develop in-house chips.
2. LiDAR: LiDAR is integrated into an increasing number of vehicles in response to the growing demand for advanced self-driving functionalities. Although LiDAR remains out of reach for vehicles in certain price segments, autonomous driving sensors including LiDAR are no longer limited to flagship models since new NEV models’ E/E architectures are expected to be compatible with OTA updates.
LiDAR sensor demand from NEV manufacturers has significantly increased because only by pre-installing hardware ahead of time in their vehicles can automakers enable autonomous driving functionalities as a paid subscription service through OTA updates later on.
3. Battery-swapping: Battery-swapping are relatively attractive for the Chinese NEV industry for several reasons: First, battery-swappable vehicles are excluded from China’s NEV subsidy limits*; second, automakers can now afford to lower the retail price of vehicles by turning batteries into a subscription service; finally, it’s much convenience for driver because battery swapping is faster than battery charging.
For instance, NIO’s entire NEV lineup is compatible with both battery charging and battery swapping. NIO has been pushing its BaaS（battery as a service）and second-gen battery swap stations since 2020. On the other hand, Weltmeister and XPeng are also making their respective battery-swapping strategies.
4. Capacity Expansion and Overseas Strategies: The aforementioned four automakers all place a heavy emphasis on both expanding their production capacities and growing their overseas market shares. Their capacity expansion efforts include building in-house production lines, acquiring other facilities, or jointly funding automotive production with OEMs/ODMs. Regarding overseas expansion, their primary destination is the European market, which is relatively favorable to NEVs.
For instance, NIO and XPeng choose Norway as their first target market in Europe. However, while the European automotive market is conducive to the growth of NEVs in terms of both policies and cultures, competition among automakers is also correspondingly intense. In addition, most European countries prefer either domestic brands or other European brands. Therefore, Chinese automakers must prioritize gaining consumer trust via establishing a trustworthy brand image.
*China’s subsidies for NEV purchases are restricted to NEVs with a retail price of CN¥300,000 and under. However, NEVs with swappable batteries do not fall under this restriction.