RF Power Semiconductor Devices are Moving Forward Despite Wireless Infrastructure Ills

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2Q 2018 | IN-5089

RF power semiconductor devices continue to be a nearly US$1.5 billion business (<4 GHz, >3 W) despite the variability with the wireless infrastructure segment. Wireless infrastructure accounts for nearly two-thirds of total revenue and has been flat to slightly up and then slightly down in recent years. The other major segments are:

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RF Power for Wireless Infrastructure Flat to Slightly Down, but Other Segments Up

NEWS


RF power semiconductor devices continue to be a nearly US$1.5 billion business (<4 GHz, >3 W) despite the variability with the wireless infrastructure segment. Wireless infrastructure accounts for nearly two-thirds of total revenue and has been flat to slightly up and then slightly down in recent years. The other major segments are:

  • Military/defense
  • Instrumentation/Scientific/Medical (ISM)
  • Broadcast
  • Commercial avionics and air traffic control
  • Non-cellular communications

All are showing solid mid-single-digit growth except for broadcast, which is anemic but still moving upward.

Technology Is Starting to Drive the Market

IMPACT


Gallium Nitride (GaN) devices are making strides in all segments except for broadcast. Improvements in manufacturability and attempts to fully commercialize GaN on Si all indicate that wireless infrastructure could be in the cards for GaN as its share in this important segment improves several percentage points each year.

The pulsed RF power marketplace, especially for military/defense and commercial avionics/air traffic control, is starting to be overcome by the newer technology, and several other segments are also falling under GaN’s influence as well. Look for this trend to continue for the next several years.

A Strategy for Moving Ahead

RECOMMENDATIONS



Moving forward, it will soon be important that RF semiconductor vendors stake out positions along several important paths.

  • First, it will be increasingly necessary to look at markets other than wireless infrastructure. The growth in the overall business will be centered in these other segments. This is not to say that wireless infrastructure is not important (it obviously is), but growth will drive the future and that growth is not in wireless infrastructure.
  • Second, a position in GaN will increasingly be necessary. The pulsed sub-segments and penetration into wireless infrastructure will be led by GaN devices. It is very difficult to imagine a vendor being a serious contender without a solid position and/or plan in this newer technology. Silicon-based technologies will still dominate the market for some years to come, but this dominance will erode as the years go by.
  • Caution is advised on how 5G NR will affect this marketplace. Both 5G NR low-band and mid-band will undoubtedly provide opportunities, but the extent of this new business is yet unknown. RF power output requirements will be lower, and that will certainly affect device pricing in a negative sense. 5G could be a net positive for RF power but how big of a positive is yet to be seen.

The above is discussed in detail in the recent ABI Research market data RF Power Semiconductors (MD-RFPS-18) and the ABI Research report RF Power Semiconductors (AN-4910).

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