Programming The Future

When it comes to FPGAs, it’s all about quality, not quantity.


By Joanne Itow
After Achronix and Altera made significant announcements involving FPGA products and Intel’s advanced manufacturing technology, I decided to take a closer look at some of the market numbers involved. Just to recap, in February, Achronix announced the company began shipping the first FPGA device manufactured on Intel’s 22nm, Tri-Gate process technology. One week later, Altera and Intel announced an agreement to build high performance FPGAs on Intel’s 14nm Tri-Gate technology.

Over the past five years FPGA revenues have grown at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6.4%. Although revenues took a dive in 2009 during the U.S. financial recession, revenues more than recovered in 2010. In 2012, total FPGA revenues dropped to $3.7 billion, down from $3.8 billion in 2011. Things should improve this year as Semico expects FPGA revenues to increase 5.5%. Over the next five years FPGA/PLD revenues are expected to grow by over 9% CAGR.

Figure 1: FPGA Revenues and Units

What is driving this growth? FPGA units grew 14.8% in 2012 over 2011 and are expected to grow 7.0% in 2013. Over the next five years, FPGA units will increase 3.6% CAGR. Most of that growth will be in FPGA products with greater than one million gates. Although average selling prices (ASPs) are expected to be flat to slightly down this year, the growth in high-performance products in the future will help maintain and even increase ASPs in the future. In addition, FPGA manufacturers are improving the performance of FPGAs and are integrating IP cores into their designs, making them more like programmable SoCs.

High-end FPGAs are used in applications such as cellular infrastructure, network equipment, OTN (Optical Transport Network), high-performance computing, satellite, aerospace, radar and military. The figure below presents data from the Semico MAP Model for one of the FPGA end markets, cellular infrastructure. It includes wafer demand by technology node for FPGAs used in cellular infrastructure, i.e. base stations. Although the volumes are not high, it does show that FPGA wafer demand transitions quickly to the most advanced manufacturing technology. In addition, with Intel’s advanced technology foundry offerings, Semico believes the transitions to new technologies will occur even faster than in the past.

For more details on the FPGA market, players and end use applications, contact Rick Vogelei at

Figure 2. Wafer Demand for FPGAs in Cellular Infrastructure