Qualcomm has managed to leverage its wireless chip business to finish third in the semiconductor market for 2012, according to research released today from IHS iSuppli. 

IHS calls the 2012 semiconductor market "miserable" and characterized by revenue decline at seven of the world’s top 10 semiconductor suppliers. 

As a result, Qualcomm is set to end 2012 with 27.2 percent growth in semiconductor revenue, according to preliminary results from the IHS iSuppli Competitive Landscaping Tool (CLT) from information and analytics provider IHS (NYSE: IHS). That represents the highest rate of growth of any top 10 or even any top 20 semiconductor suppliers. 

The nearly 30 percent increase in revenue will cause Qualcomm’s share of the market to climb by a full percentage point to 4.3 percent. More significantly, IHS says it will allow Qualcomm to rise three positions and take third place in the global semiconductor business. 

Dale Ford, senior director at IHS, said in a statement that the wireless segment of the semiconductor market has been the exception in a year of slumping revenues for chip makers.   

“Consumers are continuing to buy more smartphones and media tablets, even as sales of other once-hot products like PCs and flat-panel TVs decelerate or decline," Ford said. "With its chips at the heart of countless cellphones, including Apple Inc.’s marquee iPhone 5, Qualcomm has discovered an oasis of growth in the desert that is the semiconductor market in 2012.”

Qualcomm too is an exception. Seven companies among the top 20 semiconductor suppliers are expected to suffer double-digit percentage declines in revenue in 2012, including: Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), Freescale Semiconductor, Texas Instruments, Toshiba, STMicroelectronics, Elpida Memory and Renesas Electronics. Revenue contractions for these companies will range from 11.4 to 17.7 percent.

After Qualcomm, the next best performance among the top 20 suppliers is set to be posted by Sony, which will attain 20.1 percent growth in semiconductor revenue, according to IHS. Sony’s performance stands in stark contrast to most other major Japanese semiconductor suppliers, whose revenue will collapse by double-digit rates in 2012.

“Sony’s strong results are due to its leading position in the image sensor market, which is expected to grow by 19 percent in 2012, with the CMOS image sensor sector of the market seeing its revenue expand by 31.8 percent. Sony’s image sensor revenue, which accounts for nearly 60 percent of its semiconductor takings, is expected to expand by 48 percent. Even more amazing, its CMOS image sensor revenues are forecast to more than double,” Ford said.