How UMS is taking full benefit of the RF GaN device market’s strong growth

Though GaN for power electronics applications is just emerging (see Yole Développement’s report, GaN and SiC Devices for Power Electronics Applications), the use of GaN for RF applications is in strong ramp-up.

2015 was a significant year for the GaN RF industry, with a dramatic increase in wireless infrastructure market sales driven by the massive adoption of LTE networks in China. By year’s end, the total RF GaN market was close to $300M (according to Yole Développement’s report, GaN RF Devices Market: Applications, Players, Technology, and Substrates 2016 – 2022). Growth will continue in 2016, mainly driven by increased adoption of GaN technology in the wireless infrastructure and defense markets. A significant boost will occur around 2019 – 2020 led by the implementation of 5G networks. By the end of 2022, market size will have multiplied by 2.5, posting a CAGR of 14% from 2016 – 2022. And while GaN-on-SiC is still the dominant technology, several other options, including GaN-on-Silicon, will gain prominence.

Against this growth backdrop, we interviewed Mr. Pierre-Franck Alleaume from UMS in order to understand the company’s involvement in GaN RF fields, and gauge UMS’ expectations for the next three years.

Yole Développement: Can you introduce UMS, its activities (technology and products), and its unique supply-chain position?
Pierre-Franck Alleaume: UMS offers GaAs and GaN-on-SiC wafer processing capabilities. We have a large variety of IIIV PHMET, HEMT, HBT, and diode technologies which serve markets ranging from defense and space to commercial applications like automotive and telecommunications. UMS’ technologies portfolio currently covers a variety of frequencies — beyond 100GHz with GaAs processes, and up to Ku band with GaN. We have a new 0.15µm GaN HEMT process in development that will enable us to extend our GaN offer beyond Ka band.

UMS GaNTechnoAero Apr2016

UMS GaN technologies are qualified for aerospace applications (Courtesy of UMS)

YD: Can you detail UMS’ involvement in the GaN industry, specifically for RF devices?
PFA: UMS has a dual, flexible offer:
– A GaAs and GaN foundry available for external customer designs
– Our own RF and millimetre-wave products

UMS is the main European industrial semiconductor provider of GaAs and GaN technologies. This unique positioning in Europe, and on a broader scale the world, allows us to be the most secure, reliable supply chain for GaAs and GaN technologies for every strategic, demanding RF to millimetre-wave application.
UMS’ catalogue and ASIC product offer is based on either our own technologies or on an external foundry in order to serve automotive, telecom, defense, and space applications.

YD: With package being one of GaN development’s key aspects, which way do you think the market is trending? Will everyone use plastic package, and if so how much influence will that have on price reduction?
PFA: Packaging is clearly a cost driver and plastic packaging is a perfect solution, especially for applications operating in pulsed-mode, like radar. However, in order to be usable for every application with a continuous operating mode, some technical challenges must still be solved. Good progress has been made in the last few years.  For example, UMS has already successfully released in production a new generation linear GaAs HPA for radiolinks operating in CW mode. This good achievement will now be applicable to GaN. But some demanding applications could still require ceramic metal packages until such time as plastic versions are fully available. Three factors still justify the use of ceramic metal packages: applications with low volume, applications with thermal limitations due to the PCB, and applications requiring hermeticity.

UMS PlasticMoldedQFN Apr2016

UMS GaN products are available in several type of packages as plastic molded QFN and ceramic metal flange packages (Courtesy of UMS)

YD: The growing trend towards higher frequency and higher power applications has imposed more demands on GaN device performance. How does UMS plan to expand its portfolio and develop more advanced process technologies?
PFA: UMS has always been recognized as a high-frequency solution provider, and we’re actively working to develop new HEMT GaN-on-SiC technologies for applications beyond 40GHz. Moreover, a consistent improvement plan is ongoing to ensure improved yield performance and reliability. At the same time, cost-effective power packaging solutions are also being developed.

YD: Yole sees 5G as having big potential for the GaN RF industry. Considering 5G’s higher performance requirements and larger device demands, what is UMS’ vision of the wireless infrastructure market?
PFA: Yes, 5G is a great opportunity to offer new solutions that are very disruptive compared to the previous generation of base stations. The need for higher frequencies and a higher density of integration, and the need to merge functionalities, is well-aligned with UMS’ experience and capabilities. In fact, 5G architecture looks very similar to the phase array defense systems on which UMS has collected invaluable experience over the last 20 years.

Trade-offs between power dissipation, reliability, and cost will be complex and will likely require very close partnerships between Tier1 and component makers. Indeed, off-the-shelf products will probably be too limited for enabling optimum system integration.

(Source: Yole Développement’s report, GaN RF Devices Market: Applications, Players, Technology, and Substrates 2016 – 2022)

YD: We have heard that some companies have just released two GaN-on-Silicon products in the wireless infrastructure market, with shipments scheduled for this summer. How do you see this impacting the market?
PFA: In the new telecom systems, cost and performance have equal importance, and there is probably room for both GaN/Si and GaN/SiC technologies. But when performance, reliability, and a high level of integration are required simultaneously, like for 5G BTS, GaN-on-SiC will likely remain the best solution.

YD: GaN competes with different technologies like LDMOS and GaAs in different markets. How do you rate GaN device potential in different markets, for instance wireless infrastructure and defense?
PFA: GaN will continue to steadily replace GaAs in most market segments which are driven by power density and robustness to power overdrive. However, GaAs is a very mature solution that will remain attractive for low-level and low-noise functions. For LDMOS, GaN has a great chance of success above 3GHz, especially for 5G.

UMS GaAsandGaNTelecom Apr2016

UMS GaAs and GaN products for telecom infrastructures (Courtesy of UMS)

YD: In recent years we have observed new entrants in the market, and existing players trying to expand their product portfolio in different applications. How do you see the market’s competition shaping up, and what are UMS’ advantages?
PFA: Whenever business is booming, new entrants arrive. But our positioning as Europe’s main industrial supply chain is a big differentiator, especially since a high level of service and reliability is needed to support our customers.

YD: In Yole Développement’s estimation, Sumitomo has a very high market share that’s far ahead of other companies. What are UMS’ advantages/plans for competing with Sumitomo and other players?
PFA: As alluded to above, UMS is a trusted, customer-oriented company that’s ITAR-free and delivers a high level of quality and reliability. For us, it makes no sense to compete head-on with a large company like Sumitomo with exact similar offer. We have to emphasis our differentiators.

YD: Now that NXP’s former RF power division is an independent company (Ampleon), how do you see your future partnership with Ampleon?
PFA: Stable, for the reasons cited above.

YD: What can we expect from UMS in 2016 and 2017?
PFA: Strong GaN activity, including:

o Several new GaN products (ASICs and catalogue)
o Ramp-up of our 0.5 and 0.25 GaN technologies
o Demonstration of GH15, our new 0.15µm technology
o ESA space-evaluated technologies and GaN packaged flight models

You can also expect ramp-up of a new generation of state-of-the-art GaAs with HPA above 20GHz, and enhanced power packaging solutions.

20160405 161747

Dr. Pierre-Franck Alleaume was born at Limoges, France, in 1973. He received the Ph.D. degree in electronic engineering from the University of Limoges, France, in 1999. His doctoral work performed at United Monolithic Semiconductors was on low noise GaAs MMIC voltage controlled oscillators for 77GHz automotive radars. He started his professional carrier at THALES in 1999 and developed microwave hybrid modules for telecom and defense applications until 2003. During this period of time he studied new topologies of point to point and point to multi-point telecom modules in the frequency band from 26GHz to 44GHz. Until 2006, he developed high power amplifiers for telecom and defenses applications on mixed technologies (TWTs and solid state) from L to Ka band. He joined United Monolithic Semiconductors in 2006 as packaging and assembly solutions group manager. The activity of this group is focused on advanced packaging solutions for microwave and millimeter-wave ICs based GaAs, GaN and SiGe semiconductor technologies. He is now in charge of the definition of technology and product roadmaps of UMS.


More about Yole Développement related reports here.


Sources: /