News | June 24, 2019

RF Industry: How Can GaN Win The Battle?

OUTLINES:

  • GaN RF market growth is fed by military and 5G wireless infrastructure applications.
  • Two main markets are driving GaN RF: telecom & defense.
  • How can GaN win the battle? With which technology?
  • What is the status of the RF GaN supply chain?

Over recent years, GaN has been significantly adopted by the RF industry owing to its higher power output at high frequencies, and its smaller footprint.

“The overall GaN RF market is expected to reach US$2B by 2024, driven by two main applications: telecom infrastructure and defense”, asserts Ezgi Dogmus, PhD. Technology & Market Analyst at Yole Développement (Yole).

And Antoine Bonnabel, Technology & Market Analyst, also part of the Power & Wireless team at Yolecomments: “Worldwide investment in telecom infrastructure has remained stable in the past decade, with a recent increase coming from Chinese government efforts. But in this steady market, the trend toward higher frequencies offers a sweet spot for RF GaN in PA in 5G network at frequencies below 6GHz, in RRH.”

Yole Group of companies, including Yole and Knowmade investigates GaN technologies for RF applications to propose each year up-to-date technology, market and patent analyses.

Under their new RF GaN report, RF GaN market: applications, players, technology, and substrates, Yole’s analysts offer a deep understanding of GaN implementation in different market segments. Indeed it delivers an extensive overview of 5G’s impact on the wireless infrastructure and RF FEs, and the GaN based military market, including current market dynamics and future evolution.

In addition, Knowmade, based on its IP expertise, reveals the related competitive landscape from a patent perspective. Key patent owners, IP & technology strategies, and future intents have been deeply analyzed by the analysts in the RF GaN 2019, Patent landscape analysis report.

What are the benefits of GaN technologies, compared to existing technologies, such as GaAs and LDMOS? What is the status of RF GaN device technologies on different substrates, silicon, SiC and diamond? Who is doing what? What are the current technical issues and market challenges? Analysts invite you to discover the RF GaN ecosystem.

Since the apparition of first commercial products 20 years ago, GaN has become a serious rival to LDMOS and GaAs in RF Power applications, with a continuous improvement of performance and reliability at lower cost.

The first GaN-on-SiC and GaN-on-Si devices appeared at almost at the same time, but GaN-on-SiC has become more technologically mature.

Currently dominating the GaN RF market, GaN-on-SiC penetrated the 4G LTE Wireless infrastructure market and is expected to be deployed in RRH architectures in 5G’s sub-6Hz implementations. Nevertheless, in parallel, there has also been remarkable progress in cost-efficient LDMOS technology, which is likely to challenge GaN solutions in 5G sub-6Ghz active antennae and massive MIMO deployments.

In this context, GaN-on-Si stands as a potential challenger with possible expansion to production on 8-inch wafers, and promises cost efficient solutions for commercial markets. Even though, as of Q1-2019, GaN-on-Si remains in small volume manufacturing, it is expected to challenge the existing LDMOS solutions in the BTS and RF energy market.

Another target of GaN-on-Si companies is the high-volume consumer 5G handset PA market, which can open up new market opportunities in coming years if successful. With eventual ramp-up of GaN-on-Si products, a coexistence of both GaN-on-SiC and GaN-on-Si in the market would be possible. Last but not least, innovative GaN-on-Diamond technology is entering the competition, promising very high power output density with smaller footprint compared to its GaN rivals. This technology targets performance-driven applications, such as in high power BTS, military and satellite communication.

But what is the status of the supply chain?
As a mature technology, GaN-on-SiC proposes today a well-established supply chain with numerous actors and different levels of integration. At the RF component level, the top market players are:

  • Sumitomo Electric Device Innovations (SEDI), Cree/Wolfspeed and Qorvo.
  • Upon becoming a public company, RFHIC has significantly increased its revenue since 2017.
  • Leading compound semiconductor foundry Win Semiconductors is now actively offering GaN RF products.

In the GaN-on-Si RF industry, STMicroelectronics is a leading actor in collaboration with MACOM targeting global 5G base station applications with expansion of production capacity of 150mm GaN-on-Silicon and further expansion to 200mm. Furthermore, ST has announced its interest in GaN-on-Si handsets, which could open exciting new market opportunities for the GaN RF business. Yole and Knowmade had the opportunity to meet Filippo Di Giovanni, Director Strategic Marketing, Innovation & Key Programs for New Materials and Power Solutions Division, Automotive Products Group, at STMicroelectronics. They discussed about technology status and roadmap for the coming years. Discover the full interview on i-micronews.com.

Within the military market, countries and regions are individually strengthening their GaN RF ecosystem. GaN adoption is driven by strong players such as Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin in the USA, and is boosted in Europe with UMS, Airbus, Saab, and in China by leading vertically-integrated company, China Electronics Technology Group Corporation (CETC).

However, in the telecom market the situation is different. Strategic partnerships and/or mergers and acquisitions have marked 2018. The market leader SEDI and II-VI established a vertically-integrated 6-inch GaN-on-SiC wafer platform to address the increasing demand within 5G. In parallel, Cree acquired Infineon’s RF Power Business including and packaging and test for LDMOS and GaN-on-SiC technologies.

A detailed description of GaN RF reports is available on i-micronews.com, RF devices reports section.

SOURCE: Yole Developpement