Can Broadcom Close Baseband Gap With Qualcomm?
Broadcom will “close the gap” with Qualcomm in the baseband market within a couple of years, Broadcom CEO Scott McGregor tells the Wall Street Journal.
This is an exceptionally ballsy aspiration for the CEO of a company which is not even in the top five baseband suppliers.
No.1 in the $3.6 billion baseband market is Qualcomm with about 42% share; No.2 is Intel on around 17% share and No.3 is MediaTek with 14% share followed by TI and ST-E.
So Broadcom has a hard row to hoe. On the other hand it was showing triple digit unit shipment growth in mid-year. As, indeed, was China’s Spreadtrum.
Helping Broadcom’s ambitions are the rise of LTE, the decline of CDMA and an internal technology development push which will enable it to deliver a smartphone BOM of $100 in 2012.
McGregor says: “$100 to $200 unsubsidised smartphones are very interesting to us.”
However fablessness rears its ugly head at this point. Eric Brandt, Broadcom CFO, acknowledges that: “TSMC is typically one process node behind Intel.”
Furthermore, even though Broadcom uses other foundries than TSMC, Brandt states: “Even on 40, it’s hard to find a supplier of 40 other than TSMC”.
TSMC, of course, is also Qualcomm’s foundry, and Qualcomm is often the lead process development partner on TSMC’s low power process which may give it priority rights in a tussle over capacity allocation.
So, in the fight for baseband market share, TSMC may have quite a big part to play in deciding the outcome.
Currently Broadcom’s strength is at the low-end but, as it moves to make highly-integrated, low-cost chip-sets for smartphones, and as the slowing of CDMA inevitably weakens Qualcomm’s grip on the baseband market, and if there’s plenty of 28nm capacity at TSMC so Broadcom is not starved of wafers, then Irvine could significantly diminish the gap with San Diego in 2012.