An Overview of the RF Acoustic Wave Filters Patent Landscape

The number of frequency bands used in mobile telecommunications has seen a huge increase from 4 bands in the early 2000’s to more than 30 bands today. This number will only go up from here, specially with the introduction of 5G and other new wireless technologies. With the increase in the number of frequency bands being used by a device filters are one of the most important devices in the RF communication chain. The RF filter industry is expecting to see strong growth, with USD $16 billion revenue expected by 2022. This growth is the result of the need of new antennas and development of multiple carrier aggregation.

According to one, Dr. Paul Leclaire, Patent Analyst at KnowMade, under this dynamic context, RF acoustic wave filters have appeared as the best solution to achieve filter operations in the sub 6 GHz regime. Acoustic wave filters offer low manufacturing cost as well as a high level of integration and performances

KnowMade is part of the Yole Group of Companies including Yole Développement and System Plus Consulting. The 3 partners have explored the RF world and done a value-added analyses on this sector which includes market trends, company positioning, IP landscape, technology roadmaps, manufacturing processes and related costs.

In their latest report, “RF Acoustic Wave Filters” patent landscape analysis, KnowMade has investigated the patent landscape for RF acoustic wave filters including SAW, TC-SAW, BAW-FBAR, BAW-SMR, etc. to describe the related ecosystem. The technology intelligence & IP strategy consulting company has evaluated the IP position of key players through detailed analysis of their patent portfolios, including the legal status of the patents, their geographic coverage, their claimed inventions and their prior art contribution. IP strategy and IP blocking potential are also part of this analysis. 

Who are the key players involved? What are their IP positions? How will the IP landscape evolve? IP dynamics are changing and KnowMade’s analysts, combined with Yole Développement and System Plus Consulting expertise, put the RF acoustic wave filter players and their strategy in the spotlight. Acoustic wave filters patenting activity was very high between 2000 and 2006. Since then, it has progressively decreased and reached a plateau since 2010. The market is dominated by historical players with a strong international position that strongly reduce the penetration of new comers in this industry. Between 2017 and 2022, 8% CAGR is expected.

The IP landscape is showing the same evolution, dominated by a limited number of large companies including Broadcom, Skyworks, Taiyo Yuden, Murata and more. After the fast growing period of 2000-2006, acoustic wave filter players have consolidated their position. The recent and numerous mergers and acquisitions have led to the strengthening of players portfolios. Broadcom’s acquisition by Avago Technologies is one good example. Moreover, as 5G communication protocols take shape, players are now developing filters that will address the requirements of the upcoming sub 6 GHz applications and future 5G mass markets.

SAW is the main technology used in mobile telecommunication. Patenting activity started in the early 90’s and IP players are now well established. The IP activity is driven by Murata Manufacturing thanks to its impressive number of granted and pending patents.

BAW patenting activity is showing more dynamism compared to SAW market segment. Broadcom has the strongest portfolio also consolidated thanks to its acquisition by Avago Technologies. BAW IP landscape is less established than SAW and KnowMade’s analysts expect a reshaping of this market segment during the next 5 years due to the race between the main IP challengers. For example both companies, Qualcomm and Qorvo are showing interesting IP activities focused on the 4G to 5G transition. This strategy will probably reshuffle the BAW IP landscape and enhance the competition.

In the 1990s, SAW filter patent publications grew rapidly, heralding the development of the RF acoustic wave filter market in the 2000s. Since 2010, the market has consolidated, witnessing the flattening of the patent activity growth and the strengthing of the IP position of several companies. It is now essential to understand the RF acoustic filter patent landscape, the key patented technologies and players’ IP positions. Such knowledge can help anticipate the upcoming revolution, detect business opportunities, mitigate risks and make strategic decisions to strengthen one’s market position.

Yole Group of Company including KnowMade, System Plus Consulting and Yole Développement is definitely involved in the RF FE Front-End industry. Based on its market, technology, patents, reverse engineering and manufacturing costing expertise and its knowledge of the “More than Moore” industry, analysts are answering the industry questionings with a comprehensive collection of reports.

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