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MEMS Oscillators: The Momentum is Building

SKU: MP105-13

In 2012 the MEMS (Micro Electrical Mechanical System) oscillator market grew 31% to $37.9 million. This represents less than one percent of the total timing market of $6.9 billion and promises to be a high growth market as MEMS oscillators continues to attract more vendors. There are currently eleven vendors shipping MEMS oscillators. One more, Sand9 has announced it will start shipping later in 2013. One new entrant, Silicon Labs has launched a single chip CMOS MEMS oscillator. Two companies, NXP and Murata, each have MEMS oscillator products on hold. Thus, by the end of 2013 there may be between twelve and fourteen MEMS oscillator vendors. SiTime is the recognized leader with about 80% unit share of the MEMS oscillator market.

The MEMS oscillator has to compete with the long established quartz crystal oscillators. Just about all electronic circuits need a timing device. The MEMS oscillator vendors are banking on increasing penetration over the next few years.

MEMS oscillators offer several advantages over quartz devices. In addition to various metrics on performance and reliability, MEMS hold a distinct edge over quartz in size, cost and power consumption. Why do MEMS oscillators have such a low penetration rate? The quartz crystal is well established. System designers are accustomed to using these devices.

Since the first publication of this study, the consensus among MEMS oscillator vendors is that system designers are more receptive to considering MEMS oscillators. The MEMS oscillator vendors have invested a great deal of time and effort into reliability and performance testing to demonstrate that MEMS oscillators are on par with and even better than traditional quartz solutions. These vendors are citing increasing design wins.

Most of the MEMS oscillators are offered in standard quartz packages. Up to now MEMS oscillator vendors have pursued opportunistic business offering their products as drop in replacements.

The MEMS oscillator vendors are beginning to offer smaller innovative packages in order to achieve smaller footprints and thinner profiles. The key markets that will drive growth are portable applications with new designs and short life cycles. More cell phones, tablet PCs and notebook PCs (e.g., ultraportables) are trending to thinner designs.  

The timing market encompasses quartz resonators (crystals), oscillators and clock generators. Also included are silicon timing devices which do not use quartz, but are also not MEMS. The MEMS oscillators compete with the oscillators and clock generators. Exclusive of resonators, the timing market was $4.8 billion and 5.2 billion units in 2012. The cell phone market accounted for 22.6% of this revenue. The oscillator plus clock generator market is expected to have a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) from 2012 to 2017 of 4.9% on revenues and 8.9% on units. MEMS oscillators will outperform the overall market. Semico projects MEMS oscillator CAGR (’12 to ’17) of 65.2% on revenues and 76.5% on units. Cell phones and in particular smartphones will be the fastest growing market for MEMS oscillators. This end market will see a CAGR (’12 to ’17) of 113.3% on revenues.

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For pricing and additional information contact Rick Vogelei at (480) 435-8564 or email him.