Market and Technology Trends
RF Front-End for Mobile 2023
By Yole Intelligence —
In a lower-than-expected but still huge $19B RF front-end market in 2022, innovation, more than ever, is key to navigating this market.
- Smartphone production forecast (): breakdown by region, air standard, market segment
- OEM market shares (Units)
- RF front-end market forecast at board level ($M & Units): breakdown by air standard, component type (module/discrete) & function (PA module, FEM, Filter, Switch, LNA, Tuner, PMIC, AiP)
- RF front-end market shares ($M): breakdown by component type/function
- RF front-end market forecast at die level ($M & Units): breakdown by function (PA, LNA, Switch, Filter, Tuner) and technology (GaAs, RFSOI, SiGe Bi-CMOS, CMOS, SAW, BAW, …)
- Wafer start forecast (kw per year): breakdown by technology and substrate type
- Ecosystem and technology landscape
- Market dynamics and use cases for mobile and 5G
- Spectrum rollout status
- RF front-end architecture analysis and technical evolution
- Radio technology evolution, focus on 5G features and its impact on the RF front-end market
- Semiconductor technology evolution for RF front-end components
- Mid to long-term technology roadmap, including 5G advanced and 6G
- Impact of Non-Terrestrial Network support
- Bill of material ($, mm²) provided. Breakdown by air standard and segment
Wireless communication technologies in mobile devices are constantly evolving to provide end users with new capabilities, while OEMs are continuously seeking to shrink the RF front-end area.
This is posing technical challenges to the RF front-end community in the context where geopolitical tensions and macroeconomic fluctuations are adding uncertainties.
Table of contents
Scope of the report
Methodology and definitions
About the authors
Companies cited in this report
What we got right, what we got wrong
- Market segmentation
- RF front-end market forecast ($M, Munits)
- Component-level market forecast ($M, Munits)
- Wafer starts (kwafers)
- 5G market dynamics
- Spectrum status
Market share and supply chain
- OEM market share
- RF front-end market share
- Ecosystem and technology landscape
- Radio access technology trends
- Focus on key 5G features
- RF architecture trends
- Technology and components
Outlook and conclusions
Yole Group corporate presentation
5G on par with 4G but only just
The cell phone market recovered in 2021 following the dip caused by the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020. However, pre-Covid-19 levels have not been reached due to chip supply shortages. In 2022, the smartphone industry was seriously impacted following a global macroeconomic downturn: a market decline with high inflation caused by geopolitical tensions such as the Russia-Ukraine war and tensions between China and Taiwan. This downturn resulted in consumer hesitancy in purchasing new phones, thus pushing OEMs to enter an inventory correction phase. In addition, the Zero-Covid policy in China further destabilized the smartphone manufacturing industry.
Despite these challenging conditions, 5G phone production reached parity with 4G phone production in 2022, though the growth rate was significantly less than the industry’s expectation. 5G’s hype has evaporated; however, we expect further penetration in the smartphone market as OEMs and MNOs further push deployment of this technology.
Hard time for the RF front-end industry
The RF front-end market leaped forward in 2021, reaching over $19B as an effect of the post-Covid-19 recovery and 5G penetration. But CY2022 ended flat following the smartphone market decline associated with lower-than-expected 5G penetration. Consequently, the bill-of-material growth engine has been in low gear. As per the moderate smartphone growth expected toward 2028, along with the limited potential for 5G penetration, we forecast a mid-single digit compound annual growth rate for the RF front-end market, which we expect to reach $26.9B by 2028. Meanwhile, the market opportunity is huge, and new 5G technical features will keep driving RF front-end technology innovations. Mid to long term, there are developments in the pipeline, and investments are being made to prepare for the next growth wave, which will emerge from 5G advanced and the forthcoming 6G.
Rising competition in the RF front-end ecosystem
In 2021, Qualcomm led the market with its end-to-end approach, followed by Broadcom’s custom PA module offering. Skyworks and Qorvo have similar company profiles with broad RF portfolios serving all market segments, although Skyworks has been more exposed to increased Chinese competition. Murata’s revenue was low, suffering from growing competition for its filters, and it is restructuring its module portfolio. In 2022, traditional players were impacted by the deterioration in the macroeconomic environment. Except for Broadcom, revenues generated by companies in RFFE-related segments have decreased.
The Chinese RF front-end ecosystem has been growing, with fabless companies mainly emerging, most taking a share of their local market. Maxscend, Vanchip, and Smarter Micro are the most relevant examples, though Maxscend recently invested in upgrading to a fablite business model. In addition, there is a long list of companies with great ambitions and access to financial capital through public offerings on the STAR market. However, not all initiatives will succeed, and we expect consolidation to happen in the mid-term.
To sum up, Chinese RF front-end players are capturing a limited fraction of the market, as OEMs still rely on the leading players for their premium products, but the largest Chinese companies are on their way to catching up with the leaders.
Active Semi, AGC, Airoha, Akoustis, Anhui YUNTA Electronic, Apple, ASE, Asus, AT&T, AwinIC,AXT, Broadcom, CanaanTek, Cavendish Kinetics, China Mobile, China Telecom, China Unicom, ChipBetter, CoolPad, Corning, Cypress Semiconductor, DB-HiTek, Dowa, EE, Elisa, Epic MEMS, Ericsson, Etisalat, EtraSemi, Ferfics, Freiberger, GlobalFoundries, Global Wafer, Google, HH Grace, HiSilicon, HMD Global, Honor, HTC, Huawei, Huntersun-MEMS, Infineon, Intel, IQE, Jio, JRC, KDDI, KT, Kyocera, Lansus, Lenovo, LG, LG Siltron, LG U+, Maxscend, MediaTek, Meizu, Menlo Micro, Microgate, Murata, NationZ, Nokia, NSI, NTT Docomo, NXP, Okmetic, OmniVision, onsemi, OnePlus, Onmicro, Oppo, Orange, Pinnacle Microwave, pSemi, Qorvo, Qualcomm, Radrocktech, Realme, Resonant, Richwave, RoFS microsystems, Sappland Microelectronics, Samsung, Samsung Electro Mechanical, Sana, SAWNICS, Shin-Etsu, Shoulder, Siltronic, SK Telecom, Skyworks, Smarter Micro, SMIC, SoftBank, Soitec, Sony, Sprint, ST Microelectronics, Sumco, Sumitomo Electric, Sumitomo Metal Mining, Sunrise, Sunway Communication, SWI, Swisscom, Taiyo Yuden, TCL, TDK EPCOS, Telefonica, Telia, Telstra, TIM, T-Mobile, Toshiba, Tower Semi, Tpsco, TSMC, UMC, Unisoc, USI, Vanchip, Verizon, Vivo, Vodafone, WaveTek, WillSemi, WIN Semiconductors, WIPAM, Wisol, Xfab, Xiaomi, Xinpletek, Xpeedic, Yamaju Ceramics, Yuzhen IC, ZTE and more.
Do you have an account?
Sign in to your account to access your services