In recent years, the development of low-cost nanosatellites has grown considerably. It has been made viable due to the availability of low-cost launch vectors and the use of â€œcommercial off-the-shelf componentsâ€ (COTS). Most COTS components are usually not space-qualified, and in order to make them work and withstand the harsh space environment, they need extra effort in-circuit redesign and implementation. The RF front-end design is considered one of the better and feasible choices on expert research, which consists of an S-band transceiver that is fully implemented using COTS components. If further implemented in nanosatellites, the market in this sector shall grow significantly during the forecast period.
- The growing popularity of RF-SOI and the increasing adoption of smart devices drive the market. RF-SOI substrates bring RF performance to front-end module devices and are key to supporting 3G, 4G/LTE, LTE-Advanced, and future network (5G and 6G) requirements enabling faster and more reliable data transmissions. In June 2019, pSemi Corporation, a Murata company focused on semiconductor integration, announced the platform of UltraCMOS 13. The platform constitutes the next generation of pSemi's proprietary RFSOI technology, manufactured in high-volume 300mm foundries, enabling superior performance and integration for RF front-end components. These advanced modules can be integrated into smartphones, base stations, personal computers, electric vehicles, data centers, IoT devices, and healthcare enabling the growth of the market.
- The adoption of Bluetooth IoT applications drives the market. Players are focused on innovating low power solutions which significantly improve range (more than two times) when compared to standalone system-on-chip implementations, and efficiently deliver more power to the antenna, thereby minimizing or potentially eliminating any required antenna matching network. The front end module also integrates power amplifier output matching, harmonic filtering, and bypass path switching, which enable flexible and innovative end product designs for space-constrained IoT applications. In August 2019, Skyworks released two new 2.4 GHz RF front-end modules, which are SKY66118-11 and SKY66407-11, for Bluetooth IoT applications, including smartwatches, trackers, connected home systems and more. Hence this caters to the growth in the IoT applications.
- However, the impact of COVID-19 has restrained the growth of the market. Most clients of the global IC design companies placed orders ahead of time, with some of the orders having been fulfilled and shipped already. As such, IC design revenue is not expected to decrease by a considerable amount in quarter one of 2020 despite being somewhat affected by the pandemic. The expanding pandemic has, however, lowered device manufacturersâ€™ demand for IC design affecting the RF front end module market. More specifically, IC designers for smartphones and other consumer electronics have felt the greatest impact, which affected the market growth. Apple's orders accounted for 51% of Skyworks' revenue and 32% of Qorvo's revenue last year, so the slowdown of the supply chain affected the market revenue growth.
- Further, according to ESM China, Murata and Samsungâ€™s MLCCs (multilayer ceramic chip capacitors commonly used in RF circuits) are mainly used in high-end markets such as smartphones, automobiles, industrial, and medical equipment. The suspension of production from Murata and Samsung will have a market impact on the high-end RF components market, which include RF Front End Module component.
Key Market Trends
5G Connectivity to Witness Significant Growth
- The imposition of the 5G spectrum within the new networks is crucial in the evolving RFFE (RF Front End) design. By opening larger swaths of spectrum, 5G will offer higher capacity and speeds. However, to support those wider bandwidths, the RFFE must be re-designed accordingly to support the frequencies used. According to Accton, 5G will reportedly operate within the range of 24 GHz to 100 GHz. However, 5G frequencies below 6GHz are less challenging due to its similarity to existing LTE RFFE signals.
The majority of early 5G smartphone designs are found to be using Qualcomm modem and RFFE components, which significantly increases in the future due to expected growth in the 5G mobile subscriptions. For instance, LG employs the first-generation Qualcomm X50 5G design, which includes a discrete 5G transceiver (SDR8154) and a pair of RFFE modules, the QPM5650 transmit module and the QDM5650 diversity receive module to support the single band N77/78 sub-6GHz 5G network.
- Further, in April 2020, NXP Semiconductors N.V. announced its collaboration with Murata, for a system-in-package integrator for 5G mobile platforms, to deliver the industryâ€™s first RF front-end modules designed with the latest Wi-Fi 6 standards. On collaboration, both players are delivering a solution that can reduce design times, improve time-to-market, and save board space in next-generation Wi-Fi 6 implementations. This leads to the growth of the market.
- Further, a player such as Qorvo has started 5G trials equipped with RFFE. In February 2020, Qorvo announced that they are currently supplying products for more than 20 5G field trials. The company has introduced Front-End Modules (FEMs) that can function on both pre-5G and 5G architecture. Its GaN technology also enables FEMs to support the emerging 5G infrastructure. Qorvo recently unveiled gallium arsenide (or GaAs) FEM, QPF4010, to aid 5G millimeter wave (mmWave) base stations in supporting additional capacity.
- Further, optimizing form factor and power consumption will be a significant consideration in multi-band radios used in emerging 5G mobile applications. The wide bandwidth demands of 5G can undergo moving frequency translation and filtering from the analog to the digital domain. Two RF converters (Mixed-signal front-end platform) AD9081/AD9082 mixed-signal RF converters are introduced by Analog Devices, Inc. They have been engineered for the developers to install the multi-band radios as single-band ones, to increase call capacity three-fold, compared with the call capacity available in todayâ€™s 4G LTE base station. This leads to market growth in the future period.
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Asia-Pacific to Witness Significant Growth
- Asia-Pacific is expected to witness significant growth. The advancement in consumer electronics and growing defense equipment requirements with the significant growth of major emerging economies, such as China, India, and South Korea, will further boost the demand for RF component market.
- The flourishing Integrated Circuit (IC) industry, expanding the SOI ecosystem in the Asia Pacific, and increasing the use of SOI in IoT applications act as growth opportunities for the RF Front End Module (RFFE). According to Forbes, the number of IoT devices will surpass 3.5 billion by 2023, with Asia leading the highest market share. North-East Asia alone will be market to more than 2.2 billion devices by 2023.
- For data transmission over 2G, 3G, and 4G/ Long-term Evolution (LTE), mobile devices require dedicated Front-end Modules (FEMs) which uses RF-SOI chips, which integrate switches, power amplifiers, antenna tuning components, power management units, and filters on a single platform for IoT applications. Hence this caters to the market growth in the region.
- Further, increasing the production of vehicles in Asia-Pacific is expected to drive the demand for compact dual-band RF front-end module for global positioning system (GPS) operating in the L1-band (1574.42â€“1576.42 MHz) and satellite digital audio radio system (SDARS) operating in the S-band (2320â€“2345 MHz, which in turn, may boost the market in the region. China is the largest maker of electric vehicles. China leads with the highest level of EV uptake over the projection period, where the share of EVs in new vehicle sales is estimated to reach 57% across all road transport modes (i.e., two-wheelers, cars, buses, and trucks) till 2030.
- Further, Chinaâ€™s huge capital investment project designed to nurture the domestic semiconductor industry has rolled out its second phase of funding scheduled for the next five years with a budget of YUAN 204.15 billion (USD 28.9 billion) as front-end modules are important to many wireless applications, such as base stations as well as 5G smartphones. By addressing RF front-end modules, Huawei creates an opportunity to ponder which areas need its attention for developing the necessary technologies, designs, and IPs, which possibly expected to create to design a whole integrated module system in China. This further penetrates future growth for the market.
The rf front end module market is fragmented due to high market rivalry, and with increasing innovation, partnership, and mergers, the market is further expected to have high competition in the forecasted period. Key players are Broadcom Inc., Skyworks Solutions, Inc., etc. Recent developments in the market are -
- March 2020 - Nokia phone maker HMD Global announced three new Nokia smartphones, which are Nokia 8.3 5G, the new Nokia 5.3, and Nokia 1.3. The Nokia 8.3 5G is Nokia's first 5G smartphone, where the device has support for both standalone and non-standalone 5G combinations, along with 5G Radio bands that range from 600MHz to 3.8GHz powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G Modular Platform with 5G RF Front end module solution.
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