GaN RF Devices are Critical for Higher Frequency 5G Deployment

Telecom operators around the world are deploying 5G using higher frequencies in both the sub-6GHz band and mm-wave bands. This has pushed OEMs to look for new antenna technology platforms with larger bandwidths, higher efficiency, and better thermal management. GaN technology has become a serious competitor to LDMOS and GaAs in RF power applications, showing continuous performance and reliability improvement leading, potentially, to a lower cost at the system level. Yole expects the total GaN RF device market to go beyond US$2 billion in sales by 2025 with a 12% CAGR between 2019 and 2025.

In the dynamic 5G infrastructure market, there is a continuous race for more efficient antenna types. Switching technology from Remote Radio Head (RRH) to Active Antenna System (AAS) will transform the RF front ends from a low number of high-power RF lines to a large number of low-power RF lines. Following its penetration into the 4G LTE telecom infrastructure market, GaN-on-SiC is expected to maintain its strong position in 5G sub-6GHz RRH implementations. However, in the emerging segment of 5G sub-6 GHz AAS -massive MIMO deployments, the rivalry between GaN and LDMOS continues. While cost-efficient LDMOS technology carries on with noteworthy progress in high-frequency performance for sub-6GHz, GaN-on-SiC offers remarkable bandwidth, PAE, and power output.

The handset market is the big driver for GaAs devices with Power Amplifier (PA) content increasing per phone. In general, 4G LTE cellular phones need to cover up multiple frequency bands, with an increasing number of PAs per phone. The 5G demand for PAs is at least a factor of 2 more than for 4G. Adding to that the stringent requirements for linearity and power make GaAs the material choice for PAs in the RF Front-End Module (FEM). Even though CMOS has lower cost per chip, it will not necessarily have the advantage over GaAs when it comes to modules and performance.

“For mobile connectivity, Wi-Fi 6 began to enter the market in 2019”, explains Poshun Chiu, Technology & Market Analyst, Compound Semiconductors & Emerging Materials at Yole. And he adds: “Some OEMs launched new phones with Wi-Fi 6: Samsung’s Galaxy S10 in Q1-19, Apple’s iPhone 11 in Q3-19, and in Q1-20 Xiaomi was the first Chinese handset company to have Wi-Fi 6. GaAs solutions are becoming of great interest owing to their linearity and high power output, compared to traditional solutions.”

Automotive Sector Driving the the Power SiC Devices Market

Since the first commercialization of SiC diodes, the power SiC device market has been driven by power supply applications. Nevertheless, automotive is becoming the killer application, following SiC’s notable adoption for Tesla’s main inverters in 2018. Since then, announcements from different carmakers for SiC solution design wins have multiplied. In 2020, BYD has also adopted SiC based main inverter solution for their premium models. Other carmakers, such as Audi, Volkswagen, and Hyundai are expected to adopt SiC in their next generation models. In the prospering SiC power market, the automotive segment is undoubtedly the foremost driver, and as such will hold more than 60% of total device market share in 2025.

“However, following the global Covid-19 outbreak, almost all automotive OEMs had to shut down and the supply chain faced significant disruption,” comments Ezgi Dogmus. “In this context, we expect the power SiC market’s Y-o-Y (year over year) growth to slow down to 7% in 2020, with a significant impact in Q1-2020 and Q2-2020.”

The market research and strategy consulting company Yole has released the annual RF GaN technology & market report, GaN RF market: applications, players, technology, and substrates 2020. All year long, Yole’s analysts investigated this domain to get a deep understanding of the technology evolution, the potential application and business impact. GaN RF report proposes this year, an updated packaged device and bare die market segmentation as well as an extensive analysis of 5G wireless infrastructure and competitive analysis of GaN versus other existing technologies. 

This report also delivers a comprehensive analysis of the military GaN RF market.

This edition is part of an impressive collection of RF analyses including Active and Passive Antenna Systems for Telecom Infrastructure, 5G Impact on RF Front-end Module and Connectivity for Cell Phones and 5G Impact on Telecom Infrastructure. RF GaN technologies and market are also deeply analyzed in the new Compound Semiconductor Quarterly Market Monitor.