The pricing of dynamic random access memory (DRAM) continued to increase on the second half of March and increases on the spot market led to growing contract prices as well. As many leading DRAM producers are shifting capacities to LPDDR memory types, the remaining small Taiwan-based DRAM makers suffered from the earthquake in late March and are not expected to boost output shortly.
The average contract price of 4GB DDR3 memory module rated to run at 1600MHz grew to $23.5, a 2.17% increase, in two weeks; the cost of an average DDR3 2GB module climbed to $14, a 1.82% increase, according to DRAMeXchange, a research division of TrendForce. The contract price of 4Gb DRAM IC capable of running at 1333MHz/1600MHz was $2.63 in the second half of March, whereas the DDR3 2Gb chip cost $1.31. The contract price grew because of increasing spot prices that reflect undersupply of DRAM on the market.
At press time, one untested [eTT] 2Gb DDR3 chip cost $1.573 on average at Taiwan's spot market, 2Gb DDR3 1333MHz/1600MHz chip's price was approximately $1.743/$1.70, whereas 4Gb DDR3 1600MHz memory IC was priced at $3.409 on average on the spot market.
Commodity DRAM Output Reduced Significantly
On the supply side, with the demand for the Galaxy S4 smartphone being larger than expected, Samsung has made efforts to accelerate its mobile DRAM production, leading to a decrease on commodity DRAM output. Efforts to mass produce mobile DRAM is also spotted from manufacturers within Apple’s supply chain, given the company’s alleged plans to release more than one smartphone device this year, which further cuts commodity DRAM output. As a number of Taiwanese DRAM manufacturers suffered various damages from the earthquake in late March, the tightened DRAM supply situation is expected to worsen.
To make the matters worse, the delays of the transition to 20nm-class process technology and the difficulties involved in improving yield rate are all expected prevent 20nm-class DRAM from becoming the mainstream. By the end of 2013, the proportion of DRAM output accounted by 20nm-class DRAM is expected to be less than 30%. 30nm-class DRAM, on the other hand, is expected to remain as the mainstream in the market.
TrendForce forecasts that the DRAM price uptrend will continue throughout April and that the upward momentum will strengthen as various PC-OEMs maintain PC DRAM inventory at low levels. A mild price increase can be reasonably expected in the future, and upon the arrival of the peak season, it is likely that DDR3 4GB module price will approach the $30 mark.
DRAM Makers Finally Profitable
Thanks to the revival of the PC DRAM prices during the beginning of 2013, various DRAM manufacturers, for the first time in many years, were not only able to profit from PC DRAM, but also earn more revenue from this product than from server DRAM, which by comparison showed less obvious price movements. For an industry that has long been known for its unprofitability, the recently observed price surge is a largely promising sign. DRAM manufacturers now need to think hard about how to instill further value into PC DRAM in order to prevent it from being subject to intensive price competition.