Prices in the contract and spot markets for PC DRAM kept climbing between October and November, according to DRAMeXchange, a division of TrendForce. The average contract price of PC DRAM 4GB modules increased by 2.86% monthly to arrive at US$18 in November, while the average spot prices of DDR3 and DDR4 4Gb chips respectively rose 6% and 2% monthly to reach US$2.6 and US$2.53. The general state of the PC DRAM market in November suggests that the upward price trend will continue in the future.
“DRAM prices continue to move up in the fourth quarter because the general demand for various DRAM products is still very strong and end device manufacturers are now replenishing their inventories in preparation for the upcoming Chinese New Year holidays in 2017,” said Avril Wu, research director of DRAMeXchange.
Current negotiations over the supply contracts for the first quarter of next year also indicate that the average contract price of PC DRAM will stay on an uptrend. Furthermore, the average selling price of DRAM chips worldwide is anticipated to be either higher or stable in the next first quarter compared with this fourth quarter. Hence, the average contract price of PC DRAM 4GB module is going to stand at US$20 by the end of the first quarter.
Mainstream products for next year’s PC DRAM market will be 8Gb chips from 20nm processes, while increasing content per box will spur bit demand growth
Though seasonality will dampen DRAM demand in the first quarter of 2017, the oligopoly of Samsung, SK Hynix and Micron will exert a lot of influence to ensure that market stays in sellers’ control. At the same time, the DRAM manufacturing technology has reached a bottleneck and suppliers find diminishing returns with further advances. Therefore, DRAM prices are unlikely to fall in the future if suppliers decide to limit the overall bit supply growth.
Wu pointed out that among various end devices, PC systems will see a substantial increase in the memory content per box going forward. “This trend will especially become apparent next year, when suppliers adopt the 20nm process as their main manufacturing technology for PC DRAM and make 8Gb chips as the main product in their shipments,” Wu noted. “The prevalence of 8Gb chips will compel PC-OEMs to equip their devices with 8GB modules rather than the 4GB counterparts because the former will become more obtainable than the latter.”
Likewise, memory specifications of smartphones and servers are also expected to be upgraded by their branded manufacturers. In sum, DRAM suppliers’ product strategies will lead to a general increase in content per box for end devices, which in turn will drive DRAM bit demand growth for 2017.