5G Technology to Drive Growth in the RF Integrated Passive Devices Market

The market for custom RF Integrated Passive Devices (IPD) featured in RF modules is showing strong growth, especially for future 5G applications. Integrated passive devices include filters for the various frequency bands and lumped-elements circuits used for applications such as impedance matching. This market is expected to see a CAGR of 8.2% from 2019 to 2025, surpassing US $360 Million in 2025.

The IPD market is composed of four major component types: Off-the-shelf IPDs, Custom RF IPDs, Embedded IPDs and other IPDs. Another large-value market is off-the-shelf IPD used for EMI shielding in stringent applications or for basic RF operations like baluns or filtering. This market will represent US $195 million in 2025, with a 3.15% CAGR from 2019 to 2025.

After custom RF IPD, the most active market today is embedded decoupling capacitance in application processors, implemented thanks to advanced 3D integration. This is a prospective high indirect-value market. IPD themselves will not represent a huge part of the cost, but their implementation matters in the choice of the foundry service provider, thus becoming a strategic technology for component manufacturers. This market should grow to US $21.7 million in 2025, with a 15.2% CAGR from 2019 to 2025.

The last market of interest is decoupling capacitance for all other purposes including medical, industrial, aeronautics, etc., which should reach US $30 million in 2025 with a 6.9% CAGR during the same period.

Antoine Bonnabel, Technology & Market Analyst for the Power & Wireless team at Yole, states that despite offering unique features, thin-film IPD technology shows limited market penetration in the world of passives. However, even a low share in this enormous industry can represent significant results. Over time, thin-film IPD managed to penetrate a few applications and find growth relays.

For over two decades IPD has been a technology with considerable promise, just waiting for mass implementation. Yole has scrutinized this technology over the past eight years to assess its penetration and potential evolution. In this context, Yole released the Thin-Film Integrated Passive Devices 2020 report.

In this report, they explore the different addressed markets and accessible markets, as well as IPD’s positioning as a promising technology still awaiting mass adoption. Including COVID-19’s impact on general market forecasts, market trends, IPD growth relays, and market potential, this study points out technology trends and main manufacturing techniques. “In this 2020 edition, we wanted to more thoroughly assess the market’s potential and the status of IPD technologies,” explains Antoine Bonnabel from Yole.

This report tries to answer the following questions:

  • What are the economic and technological challenges of the Thin-Film IPD industry?
  • What are the key drivers?
  • Who are the suppliers to watch, and what innovative technologies are they working on?

As analyzed by Yole’s team in the new Thin-Film Integrated Passive Devices 2020 report, the main competition for IPDs is LTCC components, and LTCC themselves deal with low-cost SMD competition. Pragmatically speaking, in any complex system the passives are not the critical part. In fact, passive components have been around since the early days of electronics, and solutions that are small enough, cheap enough, and performant enough exist for almost any application. For large-volume applications in particular, cost is one of the most important criteria, and therefore the cheapest viable solution will always be chosen first.

Cédric Malaquin, Technology & Market Analyst, specialized in RF devices & technologies within the Power & Wireless division at Yole, stated this means that, for high-volume systems, LTCC will be chosen over SMD only if no other option exists, and likewise IPD will be chosen over LTCC only if mandatory. This leaves IPD as a “last resort” solution when performance is critical enough.

For low-volume, high-performance solutions, the issue with IPD positioning is different and the problem lies on the manufacturer’s side. Even if expensive, IPD stay in absolute low-cost components, and a minimum revenue is asked from IPD manufacturers before custom-creating an IPD solution. This infers that many applications cannot feature IPD, since they are not attractive enough for product development.

In this complex context of either being the “last resort” solution for volume products or being an unattractive opportunity for low-volume solutions, IPD still manage to find their specific applications. These are often moving targets allowing for the continuous growth of the IPD market.

Today this application is RF components for 5G, and tomorrow it should be decoupling capacitance, together with datacom and telecom applications, that will drive volumes and revenue. No market disruption is expected, and growth will be progressive with new growth relays over time. IPD are not enabling technologies for high-volume applications, and a single-digit CAGR will exist for the total market, but it will remain a growing market opportunity in the long term.

Click here to view Thin-Film Integrated Passive Devices 2020 report.