LYON, FRANCE — Yole Développement announces its report “RF filters, PAs, Antenna Switches & Tunability for Cellular Handsets”.
The radio-front end is a key part in every cell phone, from low cost GSM handset to multi-mode multi-band LTE smartphones. This market is very fragmented in terms of architectures, however there are a few types of components that are key. Filters or duplexers, power amplifiers and antenna switches are at the heart of every cell phone radio. “Those components represent a $3.6B market in 2011 already, growing at a 5.6% rate annually until 2016,” says Laurent Robin, Activity Leader, Yole Développement. This report highlights that as this market becomes increasingly attractive, major technical evolutions and changes are observed in the competitive landscape for those categories of devices.
Filters and duplexers are the most dynamic market. Driven by duplexers which are growing at a 10.5% rate annually, this market will reach $1.7B in 2016. Indeed smartphones are widely using WCDMA bands and LTE is a new strong driver. Depending on each band, SAW or BAW developments are candidate to further growth. While Epcos and Murata dominate the SAW area, we observe a fierce competition between Avago and TriQuint in the BAW segment.
Power amplifier is another strategic component in the RF part. This market matures but Yole Développement’s analysts still see many new technologies which impact the market. One current trend is that converged PAs and more broadband PAs are increasingly accepted in the market. GaAs is still dominating the PA market by far but is poised to loose market shares as CMOS PAs are growing, starting at the low end side of the market, and as SOI technology could be used for PAs in the near future. There is thus still room for many changes in the competitive landscape dominated by Skyworks, with RFMD, TriQuint, Avago and Murata / Renesas as challengers.
Antenna switches also become more mature however Yole Développement observes evolutions in 2 directions. First the team sees an evolution towards more performance for the new LTE bands and increasing number of throws. This is where Peregrine Semiconductor has a leading position. Second they see massive adoption of SOI technology since 2010. All big players are now involved with this technology which offers a good price/performance ratio. GaAs switches are thus decreasing, although some players still release products with exceptional performances, such as Sony. At the same time new technologies are getting closer to production, this is what is observed with MEMS.
Tunability and changes in architecture
Yole Développement’s report provides a detailed analysis on tunability, which is a new hot topic for radio front end modules. Indeed after years of development, antenna tuners have been accepted in 2011. Not only GaAs switches but also ferroelectric capacitors and MEMS variable capacitors have been successfully integrated into flagship products such as some Samsung Galaxy S2 smartphones. While there is no consensus yet on this topic, antenna tuners are now really providing a significant value proposition, Yole Développement thus expects it to be the next very hot market in this space. New types of tuners and massive deployment of LTE within 2014 will be additional drivers for PA technology as well. Yole Developpement