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Are the Major DRAM Suppliers Stunting DRAM Demand?

Tuesday, March 13th, 2018

Skyrocketing DRAM prices potentially open the door for startup Chinese competitors.

Historically, the DRAM market has been the most volatile of the major IC product segments.  A good example of this was displayed over the past two years when the DRAM market declined 8% in 2016 only to surge by 77% in 2017! The March Update to the 2018 McClean Report (to be released later this month) will fully detail IC Insights’ latest forecast for the 2018 DRAM and total IC markets.In the 34-year period from 1978-2012, the DRAM price-per-bit declined by an average annual rate of 33%. However, from 2012 through 2017, the average DRAM price-per-bit decline was only 3% per year! Moreover, the 47% full-year 2017 jump in the price-per-bit of DRAM was the largest annual increase since 1978, surpassing the previous high of 45% registered 30 years ago in 1988!

In 2017, DRAM bit volume growth was 20%, half the 40% rate of increase registered in 2016.  For 2018, each of the three major DRAM producers (e.g., Samsung, SK Hynix, and Micron) have stated that they expect DRAM bit volume growth to once again be about 20%.  However, as shown in Figure 1, monthly year-over-year DRAM bit volume growth averaged only 13% over the nine-month period of May 2017 through January 2018.

Figure 1 also plots the monthly price-per-Gb of DRAM from January of 2017 through January of 2018.  As shown, the DRAM price-per-Gb has been on a steep rise, with prices being 47% higher in January 2018 as compared to one year earlier in January 2017.  There is little doubt that electronic system manufacturers are currently scrambling to adjust and adapt to the skyrocketing cost of memory.
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