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5 September 2016

Technavio details top four drivers of RF IC market

The global radio frequency (RF) IC market will increase at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of nearly 12% from 2016 to 2020, forecasts a report by Technavio.

Asia-Pacific (APAC) is expected to be the main demand-generating region and is expected to be the major contributor to the market due to the growing demand for RF ICs in the consumer electronics segment and the increasing need for logic and multipoint control units (MCUs) in the automotive segment in the region. The presence of major buyers such as Samsung Electronics, LG Electronics and Toyota Motor has led to the increasing RF IC consumption.

Increased demand for electronics from countries such as China and India is driving the market in APAC. China's massive demand for electronics exceeds the production levels in the country. Despite the phenomenal growth, only a small share of semiconductor demand in China is actually produced domestically.

Technavio's hardware and semiconductor analysts highlight the following four factors that are contributing to growth of the global RF IC market: deployment of next-generation LTE wireless networks; the advent of carrier aggregation; the use of new materials for manufacturing RF devices; and the growing traction of RF technology for remotes.

Deployment of next-generation LTE wireless networks

The increase in data consumption has resulted in the adoption of next-generation LTE networks such as 3G and 4G. The growing consumption has resulted in the growth of commercial networks, making LTE the fastest-developing mobile technology. Although specific bands have been designated for LTE, they vary from carrier to carrier.

"LTE-based computing devices allow consumers to upload and download music and photographs, play games online with minimum signal interference, and watch online TV shows uninterrupted," says Sunil Kumar Singh, one of the lead embedded systems research analysts at Technavio. "This has created an opportunity for manufacturers of transceiver chips to offer solutions that address the consumer needs for faster and smoother access to mobile data."

Advent of carrier aggregation

Carrier aggregation combines a wide range of the available spectrum at the same time to increase download and upload speeds, and results in an increase in RF content in smartphones and tablets. Although carrier aggregation is not a widespread concept currently, it has already been implemented in South Korea.

"RF signals are transmitted and received using transceiver chips, which are integrated into RF modules as a component," says Sunil. "The advent of carrier aggregation will compel transceiver chip manufacturers to improve and upgrade their offerings according to the requirements of the OEMs."

Use of new materials for manufactuing RF devices

The manufacture of RF devices such as power amplifiers (PAs) incurs huge costs for vendors because of the high cost of raw materials. This has resulted in vendors searching for new materials that can reduce the expenditure. The development of materials such as gallium arsenide (GaAs) and indium phosphide (InP) will ramp up the production of RF power amplifiers. GaAs RF power amplifiers use high saturated electron velocity and electron mobility to function, especially at high frequencies.

These materials offer integration with other electronic components such as switches being fabricated in silicon on sapphire or other silicon-on-insulator (SOI) processes. Meanwhile, surface acoustic wave (SAW) filters and duplexers are being fabricated with piezo-effective materials such as lithium tantalate and lithium niobate. Therefore, companies such as Murata and TriQuint are aiming to use cost-effective and superior-performing materials to manufacture RF power amplifiers.

Growing traction of RF technology for remotes

RF remotes accounted for 13% of the global remote market in 2015 and are expected to see increased adoption, accounting for more than 20% by 2020. One of the main contributing factors is the decrease in development costs for RF technology-based products. Moreover, RF remotes are expected to gain market traction because of advantages compared with infrared (IR) remotes. RF remotes have lower power consumption, longer range, and do not need line-of-sight to control the device.

The RF remotes segment will see high demand, considering the demand for advanced TVs such as 3D smart TVs and 4k UHD smart TVs. Consumers demand visually aesthetic TVs that deliver a unique experience in terms of picture quality, viewing angle, and internet connectivity. With such advanced features, remote manufacturers are also manufacturing advanced and sophisticated RF remotes. RF has benefits such as out-of-line and sight communication and control, two-way communication, the incorporation of gesture recognition and voice controls, and enhanced bandwidth compared to IR.

Technavio lists the key vendors in the market as: Infineon Technologies, Qualcomm, Avago Technologies, Qorvo, Skywork Solutions, NXP Semiconductors, STMicroelectronics, and Renesas Electronics.

Tags: GaAs IC market

Visit: www.technavio.com/report/

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