With increasing demand for consumer electronics and expanded-capacity corporate servers, a shortage in NAND flash memory caused average selling prices to soar in 2017. Now, market forecasters say prices could finally stabilize during the fourth quarter. Some even think NAND could be in oversupply come 2018.
The NAND flash memory market is currently facing a global shortage with selling prices up over 25% in the first quarter of 2017. In Q2, three 10% price hikes were attributed to major manufacturer’ decisions to divest from 2D NAND production to make room for 3D NAND, which is expected to drive the market in 2018, according to market researcher DRAMeXchange.
Market analysts at DRAMeXchange say that prices could stabilize into fourth-quarter. For some companies, lower price increases in the third quarter were the result of increased NAND production to prepare for the fourth quarter, when the demand for memory chips is usually high.
For example, SK Hynix increased NAND production in Q3 to prepare to fill orders for the iPhone X and iPhone 8 release.. The result was revenue growth of 15.4% over the previous quarter, despite seeing a 3% price decrease for its NAND products.
But as fourth quarter comes to an end, demand is expected to drop up to 15% during the first quarter of 2018. This could leave memory chipmakers in oversupply, especially as the industry shifts toward incorporating more 3D NAND flash memory into solid-state devices and servers. DRAMeXchange says that 3D-NAND could represent over 70% of the global NAND flash bit output for 2018.
Chipmakers like Intel, Micron, Toshiba, and SK Hynix, prepared to avoid oversupply during this industry shift by investing in mass production of 64- and 72-layer NAND during Q2. Excluding Samsung, which is investing more in DRAM to drive revenue in 2018, these companies expect 3D NAND to drive most of their growth in 2018. Toshiba reports that 3D NAND will make up 30% of its total production by the end of 2017, and expects it to exceed 50% by the end of 2018.