Radiofrequency is one of the oldest technologies mastered by humanity. It has massively evolved over the last 50 years, deploying networks across the globe. Its latest incarnation, the 5G technology trend, is now taking hold all around the world, with extensive infrastructure projects pushing significant technology developments. In addition to the 5G revolution, RF data transfer and communications is also spreading across multiple new functions, enabling IoT infrastructure, intra- and inter-vehicle communication, and cable-cutting strategies at home, at the office and on the manufacturing floor. RF devices also drive developments in radar, medical imaging, and a host of new industrial functionalities.

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SEMICONDUCTORS AT THE MIDPOINT OF RF TECHNOLOGY

RF functions use multiple building blocks of RF semiconductor devices – the key elements that are assembled to provide all RF functionalities.

By using the latest innovative semiconductor manufacturing processes, RF components manufacturers propose an impressive diversity of components that supports the strong growth of this industry. From BAW and SAW filters to switches, including power amplifiers (PA), low noise amplifiers (LNA), duplexers, transducers, baseband chipsets, FEM modules, antenna in package (AiP) and all RFIC, RF components and modules are flooding the overall markets including mobile, telecommunication, medical, automotive and defense.

In parallel, dedicated packaging strategies and technologies, for example System in Package (SiP) have been developed to answer the market evolution and fully enable these market applications, with testing infrastructure.

Such RF semiconductor devices are extensively used both in mobile phones – RF front-end modules as well as RF discrete devices – and also in the 5G infrastructure itself. They enable new antennas such as active antenna, MIMO, mmWave radio link, and new types of base stations, such as mmWave base stations, as well as micro and macro base stations.

Our vision

THE RF TECHNOLOGY TRENDS THAT GET IN EVERYWHERE

Yole Group brings together experts in systems, modules and devices, as well as in the related manufacturing and semiconductor supply. They keep their collective finger on the pulse of the RF industry, wherever the new trends may come from.

At Yole Group, we are able to identify and analyze the technology choices made by the leading RF companies through numerous reverse engineering and cost analyses. Yole Group analyses deep insights of the technologies developed by the leading RF companies: we deliver detailed photos, package CT scan, precise measurements, materials analysis, manufacturing process flow, supply chain definition, manufacturing cost analysis and estimated sales price. With those data, we then chart these players’ strategies and combine this data with our understanding of supply chain developments.

In addition, Yole SystemPlus proposes a special focus on the consumer market, with the analysis of more than 65 smartphones all year long. Through these investigations, we follow the OEM technology choices and strategy: our analyses include design wins for the top smartphones’ OEM, packaging and test evolution in terms of type, footprint, pitch, die area evolution per function, technology node, wafer size… as well as a focus per category with processor, camera, memory, sensor…, in addition to RF devices.

From technology implementation roadmaps to forecasts at the wafer (Si, SOI, GaAs, SiGe, GaN), devices and systems level, Yole Group presents an unmatched understanding of the evolution of RF semiconductor markets, guiding you in your decision-making process as you tackle this very active, complex market.

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TUNED INTO RF MARKETS

Yole Group pays special attention to all aspects of RF technology trends to gain an understanding of system developments and companies’ strategy at a number of levels: active antenna, base station, 5G infrastructure, mobile phone RF functions, and many more.
Every day, Yole Group’s analysts deeply monitor developments in RF device functionalities, supply chain and technology, and the attendant industrial infrastructure. They provide key data, insights and analysis of the RF semiconductor industry.
More importantly, Yole Group helps you visualizing the links between all of the industry’s layers. From the 5G revolution and industrial impacts, down to the RF protocols implemented in mobile phones, industrial infrastructure, cars… All are part of our everyday life.

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TRANSMITTING POSITIVE WAVES TO ALL RF COMPONENT MANUFACTURERS

The technology’s first use cases matured long ago. Mobile Network Operators (MNO) are starting to propose new related services and are thus strongly motivated to invest more resources. To demonstrate 5G’s added value and impact to consumers, MNOs have developed advantageous commercial packages to push the technology to the front of consumers’ consciousness, giving them more motivation to upgrade.

As for every new air standard, 5G represents a significant opportunity for industry players to differentiate, innovate and potentially win market share. The technology has started to strongly penetrate the smartphone market through 2020 and is expected to grow further as the network expands throughout China, Europe and the USA. 5G phones are relatively complex compared to their 4G counterparts in terms of RF frontends. Analyzing the technical trends is therefore worthwhile to understand this complex market better and anticipate future changes, changes toward the next 6G revolution.

Different radio frequency technologies are used for radio access network (backhaul connection for the baseband data, LTE, mmWave and sub-6 frequencies) for transmission to user equipment (fixed wireless access for radiowave-based home broadband,) and so on. Each technology uses a specific type of emitting structure, whether it is a macrosite for radio access to user equipment, or a small cell for indoor mmWave access in a warehouse or industrial site. Out of this multiplicity of RAN technologies, some see a strong interest from telecom operators for LTE and 5G coverage, which should become ubiquitous worldwide by 2025.

This RF market is led by major players at every level of the value chain, from the baseband with Qualcomm, Broadcom, and Qorvo, and Murata at the RF front-end level.

The overall RF market at device level is projected to be worth over $3.5 billion in the next 5 years period only for the telecommunications and 5G infrastructure. The RF front-end module in mobile phones is expected to reach $22 billion. In parallel, radar applications including automotive and mobility, defense, security and aerospace, industrial and consumer are also in a very high growth mode. Yole Group’s analysts announce a $30 billion market 5 years from now.

Key Drivers

RF FRONT-END (RFFE) MODULES FOR 5G TECHNOLOGY AND PACKAGING APPLICATIONS

Mobile phone RF Front-End modules (RFFE) are driving market growth in RF semiconductor devices, while spurring innovation in term of functionality, integrations, materials and design.

The 5G revolution is pushing all the boundaries of RF Front-End (RFFE) applications, boosting the revenues of power amplifiers, filters, and Antenna in Package (AiP) technology, among others.

It also enables strong integration in RF modules and the use of innovative technologies in front-end manufacturing, as well as advanced 5G packaging, such as RF System in Package (SiP), and fan-out.

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AUTOMOTIVE APPLICATIONS FIRMLY CAUGHT IN RADAR TECHNOLOGY TRENDS

Driven by the growth of ADAS and the roadmap toward autonomous vehicles, automotive radar has become an area rife with development: from 3D and 4D radar, to the new functionalities brought by LiDAR, not to mention new applications for increased safety and transition to higher frequencies for better detection. The industry is being shaped by Infineon Technologies, NXP, STMicroelectronics at the device level, and Continental, Denso, Bosch, Hella and Veoneer at the systems level. All told, the radar market should peak at over $10 billion in the next 5 years.