Mobile phone rf front-end market analysis and forecast

PUBDATE:2019-07-10 09:37:55

In the next five years, the mobile phone RF front-end market is full of vitality and technological innovation emerges in an endless stream. It is expected that the compound annual growth rate will be as high as 14%, reaching 22.7 billion US dollars in 2022.

From 2016 to 2022, the market size of mobile phone RF front-end has more than doubled.

The front-end module and component market of mobile radio frequency (RF) develops rapidly. Its market size is 10.1 billion US dollars in 2016, and it is expected to reach 22.7 billion US dollars by 2022, with a compound annual growth rate of 14%. Such rapid growth has attracted the envy of manufacturers in other semiconductor markets. However, the growth rate of various mobile phone RF front-end components is different, such as the composite annual growth rate of antenna tuners (40%), filters (21%), switches (12%) and radio frequency power amplifiers (PAs & LNAs). The compound annual growth rate is only 1%.

Mobile phone RF front-end module and component market from 2016 to 2022

The filter is the largest business segment in the RF front-end market, and its market size will grow from $5.2 billion in 2016 to $16.3 billion in 2022. The driving force of the filter market is the need for additional filtering for new antennas and the need for more bulk acoustic wave (BAW) filters for multi-carrier aggregation (CA).

Power amplifier (PA) and low noise amplifier (LNA) are the second largest business sectors in the RF front-end market, but their growth is weak. The growth of the high-end LTE power amplifier market will be balanced by the shrinkage of the 2G and 3G markets. Due to the emergence and growth of new antennas, the market of low noise amplifiers will move forward steadily.
Switches are the third largest business segment in the RF front-end market, and their market size will grow from $1 billion in 2016 to $2 billion in 2022. The market will grow mainly driven by the antenna switch business.

Finally, the antenna tuner is the smallest business segment in the RF front-end market, with a market size of about $36 million in 2016, and is expected to reach $272 million in 2022. The main reason for the growth of the market is that tuning is added to the main antenna and diversity antenna.

Mobile phone RF front-end is a highly complex industry.

The double-digit growth of mobile phone RF front-end market has brought "sweet annoyance": increased complexity!

Deployment and access to 3G and 4G networks have accelerated the development of smartphones, enabling people to enjoy more network services, including instant messaging, music, photos, movies, video chat and so on. High-quality video download and upload is an "infinite" driver for enhanced bandwidth and peak data rate.

Number of bands supported by the iPhone Smartphone

This sustained growth in mobile data has led to the need to use more radio spectrum. In mobile communications, radio spectrum becomes a scarce resource with the rapid increase in the number of users and types of technology.

In order to cope with this excessive demand, mobile phones must meet complex requirements, such as:
- Multi-band support for regional and global roaming
- Support a variety of cellular modes, including 2G, 3G, 4G, WiFi, Bluetooth, Near Field Communication (NFC), Global Positioning System (GPS)
- Using MIMO to improve communication quality and increase data rate and effective range
- Intelligent antenna technology (such as beamforming or diversity) to enhance the performance of a single data signal
- Carrier Aggregation (CA) supports wider bandwidth and improves bandwidth experience, such as providing higher peak data rates, larger overall network capacity and lower latency.
All these requirements (from low frequency to high frequency) bring great challenges to the architecture, design and manufacture of mobile phone RF front-end.
Therefore, the mobile phone RF front-end industry is thirsty for "innovation", and its innovation mainly embodies in three aspects:
- Material: New RF SOI substrates, such as SOITEC e-Si substrates, are developed to reduce leakage or parasitic capacitance.
- Design: New internal component design, such as ACCO power amplifier, can improve the performance of SOI-based power amplifier and compete with GaAs power amplifier for low and medium frequency band.
- Architecture: Integrate three duplexers into hexaplexer or construct a multi-mode multi-band power amplifier module, which can work in all low, high or intermediate frequency bands.

Four manufacturers monopolize 90% of the mobile phone RF front-end market. How can new manufacturers enter?
Broadcom, Skyworks, Qorvo and Murata have established their leading edge in the mobile phone RF front-end market. And new manufacturers must be able to supply a large number of products to meet the needs of the mobile phone industry, while also obtaining the support of large customers.

On the other hand, once new technologies are introduced, they may occupy the market within five years and change the industrial structure of manufacturers and suppliers.

For example, in antenna RF-switch, SOI switch increased from less than 20% market share in 2010 to 95% market share in 2016. Peregrine and other companies switched from Silicon-on-Sapphire (SOS) to SOI.

When innovation occurs, the whole industrial chain and value chain will change, and manufacturers will either try to adapt or leave in dismay. Substrate suppliers and OEMs will be profoundly affected by this rapid technological change.

In the short term, factories like Cavendish Kinetics have low-loss RF MEMS xPxT switches