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GaN laser market to break $1 billion by 2011

13 Jul 2007

A new market study predicts that sales of GaN lasers will more than triple over the next five years.

A juicy $1.2 billion GaN laser diode market will emerge by 2011, thanks partly to weakening of Nichia's hold on the industry’s intellectual property.

The niche sector's 2006 annual sales level of $34 million has been hindered by Nichia’s dominance, according to Strategy Analytics' Asif Anwar.

Talking about his report on the GaN laser market, Anwar told compoundsemiconductor.net, “Nichia is still greater than 80%, the market leader by a huge margin.”

However, the sapphire-based manufacturing approach that has given them such dominance is now being challenged, which will open up the field.

“There’s no point having a 2-inch substrate which only costs $20 but can only get a 30 percent yield. It makes more sense to have a more expensive substrate that you can get higher yield and better quality from,” Anwar said.

Sony, looking to expand its 10–15 percent market share, is working with Sumitomo Electric Industries in making laser diodes on so-called template GaN substrates, and Strategy Analytics' research indicates that all the other suppliers of such substrates have similar collaborations.

Anwar expects the supremacy of Sony and Nichia to see blue lasers manufactured primarily in Japan until at least 2010, after which mass market development will see Taiwan grow its share, especially for low-power read-only diodes.

Read-only storage requiring low power lasers dominates the market now, but beyond 2009, Strategy Analytics sees a significant shift in market drivers as recordable data storage equipment pushes up demand for more expensive high-power GaN lasers.

These costlier devices will increase average unit selling prices, helping the industry achieve the 103 percent annual growth rate predicted in the analysts' report, “Gallium Nitride Laser Diodes: Market and Applications 2006-2011”.

The matter of whether the Blu-ray or HD-DVD format dominates will have a minimal impact on market growth, said Anwar’s co-author Stephen Entwistle.

“Since both formats essentially use the same technology, the GaN laser diode manufacturers will be the winners regardless of which technology loses the format war.”

• Strategy Analytics' report is now available – for details see the company’s web site.

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