The number of RF components will double with the introduction of 5G and GaAs will become the material of choice.
According to TrendForce analysts, the number of power amplifiers per smartphone will rise from 2 in the 3G era to 5 to 7 in the 4G era, and it will rise sharply again to 16 in the 5G era from 2020 onwards. Therefore, 5G will initiate a new growth period for GaAs components from 2020. Sales will then climb sharply by 11.3 percent to $6.492 billion in 2020, because silicon-based ICs such as HBTs and CMOS components can no longer meet the requirements for high voltages, frequencies and temperatures. Already at the 4G level, the frequencies with which mobile phones communicate have penetrated into the 1.8 to 2.7 GHz range, so that the 3G Si front ends could no longer be used. With 5G, frequencies in the 3 to 5 GHz and 20 to 30 GHz ranges will be added, so the transition to GaAs-based ICs will begin now.
However, GaAs IC manufacturers were not spared the effects of the declining smartphone market and the trade war between the US and China in the second half of 2018. According to TrendForce, the revenue of manufacturers of GaAs components for telecommunications fell to $5.835 billion in the second half of 2018, a decline of 8.9 percent compared to the same period of the previous year.
Now, however, many countries are investing in the development of the 5G infrastructure, and in 2021/22 these activities are expected to peak. Compared to the 4G era, the number of RF front ends per mobile phone will double. This will affect IDMS sales such as Skyworks, Qorvo, Macom, Analog Devices and Murata as well as specialized RF foundries such as WIN, Advanced Wireless Semiconductor Company (AWSC) and KY, as TrendForce analysts forecast.