GaN technology continues to deliver performance and efficiency in both the defense and the telecom markets. The RF market applications are currently dominated by GaN-on-SiC devices. While GaN-on-silicon (GaN-on-Si) does not threaten the dominance of GaN-on-SiC now, its emergence will impact the supply chain and possibly shape future telecom technologies.
In the 1990s, the U.S. Department of Defense recognized RF GaN-on-SiC’s higher output power and efficiency compared to materials such as InP, GaAs HBT, GaAs HEMT and Si LDMOS. RF GaN has a wider bandwidth and offers the ability to reduce system size. Both of these capabilities are in demand as the telecom infrastructure extends its frequencies and base station models. These power and efficiency attributes led to widespread adoption in defense, where RF GaN-on-SiC could meet the challenges of thermal conditioning in higher-power applications, such as airborne radar.
Defense remains one of the largest sectors in the RF GaN market. In parallel, RF GaN has started being adopted by the satellite communications (satcom) market, where its high efficiency, compared to other materials, enables smaller device sizes, freeing up valuable space at the system level. Yole Group’s RF GaN 2023 report forecasts that the defense and satellite communication sectors are expected to see a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 13 percent and 18 percent, respectively, from 2022 to 2028. This will propel the defense market to an estimated $1 billion in revenue, while the satcom market will grow to reach an estimated $270 million in revenue in 2028. Yole Intelligence’s forecast for RF GaN revenue and segmentation is shown in Figure 1.
RF GAN IN TELECOM INFRASTRUCTURE
In 2023, the mainstream GaN technology is on a SiC substrate. This mature technology demonstrates remarkable characteristics such as enhanced power-added efficiency, thermal conductivity and power density in sub-6 GHz frequencies. First introduced by Huawei in 2015, volume production of GaN-on-SiC began in 2020 for 4G base stations. Since then, the GaN RF telecom industry has evolved into a high volume market by driving the need for cost-competitive 6 in. SiC wafers. As of 2023, 6 in. SiC wafers are commercially available and the transition at the facilities of leading players is ongoing. There have also been large investments from companies around the world, such as SEDI, Wolfspeed, NXP and Qorvo, ensuring GaN-on-SiC dominates in its target applications and replaces its counterpart Si LDMOS…
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