DRAMeXchange, a division of TrendForce, reports that DRAM suppliers have in turn completed their 3Q18 contract negotiations with their clients this July. In the specialty DRAM market, prices have not changed noticeably between June and July. Looking ahead to 3Q18, DRAMeXchange expects the quotation trend of DDR4 specialty products to align more closely with the quotations of mainstream PC and server DRAM products. This is because suppliers can use different bonding options to change the application of the DDR4 memory. As for DDR3 specialty DRAM, its market is forecast to stay at a healthy supply-demand balance. In sum, the overall price trend for specialty DRAM is projected to be relatively stable in 3Q18.
DDR3 products will dominate the specialty DRAM market in the short term with cost advantages
With regard to other application segments, TVs still account for the largest share of specialty DRAM demand. Shipments of TVs for the entire 2018 would remain stable, and are currently estimated to reach 215.7 million units. At present, more than 70% of all shipped SoCs for FHD TVs adopt the SiP (system-in-package) format that integrates DRAM into the module unit. SiP is also being introduced to low-end 4K TVs as a way to keep down the BOM cost. In terms of component stacking and PCB area, SiP has a cost advantage and a space advantage over discrete solutions. However, SiP can only support DDR3 because of its temperature limitation.
As for the prices, given the same density, the price difference between a DDR4 and a DDR3 product is currently around 20% or more. With most of the TV SoCs supporting both DDR3 and DDR4, TV makers generally will choose the former to save costs, which slows down the penetration of DDR4 solutions in the specialty DRAM market. There are now even cases where the TV maker has decided to go back to using DDR3 for the new models that are under development. DRAMeXchange’s analysis indicates that DDR3 products will still dominate the specialty DRAM market so long as prices of DDR4 products have not dropped to their level (or prices of DDR4 solutions for PCs and servers remain high). This situation is not expected to change until the end of 2019 at the earliest.
Expected demand surge for DDR3 1Gb chips is unlikely to happen due to falling Ether value
DRAMeXchange’s latest analysis also finds that the anticipated demand surge and price hike in 2H18 for DDR3 1Gb chips used in cryptocurrency mining is unlikely to happen. While the value of bitcoin has bounced back recently, the value of Ether continues to fall. This in turn has depressed the stock-up demand in connection with Bitmain’s Antminer E3 machines (note that the number of DRAM chips required for each Antminer E3 is 576). DRAMeXchange believes that the demand for DDR3 1Gb chips from Ether mining market has temporarily subsided. A specific cryptocurrency such as Ether is attractive only if its value is high enough to be profitable for mining. Hence, the related DRAM demand will not return unless either the value of Ether rises again, or a new mining machine featuring a large number of DRAM chips has arrived on the market.