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Panel Session: The Death of GaAs?

May 9, 2013
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Thursday, June 6, 2013, 12:00-13:20

The GaAs device market closed 2012 with revenues of slightly more than $5.3 billion. This extends a trend of growth in GaAs device revenue that began in 2004, coinciding with the dawn of the commercial wireless communications era. The GaAs device industry has benefited from rapid growth in mobile handset adoption as power amplifiers and switches have formed the basis for increasingly sophisticated smartphones. As wireless standards evolve to LTE and HSPA+ and new frequency bands are designated to meet the seemingly insatiable desire for data consumption, the RF content in the front end of a handset is increasing. This increasing RF content coupled with nearly 1.6 billion phones shipped in 2012 has been very good for the GaAs industry. Strategy Analytics estimates that handset applications accounted for more than 50 percent of total GaAs device revenue in 2012.

With further handset shipment increases in 2013 and smartphones continuing to capture market share, it would seem GaAs device revenues are poised for continued long-term growth. Despite this rosy outlook, there are storm clouds forming on the horizon, however. At the recently concluded Mobile World Congress, Qualcomm released information about their RF360 family of CMOS-based front-end products, consisting of multi-mode, multi-band PAs, envelope tracking (ET) power management ICs and antenna tuners. For some time, the RF front-end architecture has been trending away from GaAs, as many of the largest handset switch manufacturers now use silicon-on-insulator (SoI) technology and the bias, control, tuning and filtering functions are realized using other materials.

While it is not surprising that the switching functions in the handset front end are transitioning to silicon, the announcement of a CMOS multi-mode, multi-band PA targeting LTE applications raises the threat level for the GaAs industry. While the Qualcomm announcement garnered the most attention, no fewer than 10 companies released new details at Mobile World Congress about how they will support LTE devices with CMOS multi-mode, multi-band PAs and envelope tracking. By our estimation, these announcements have shortened the time to volume for CMOS-based power amplifiers by approximately 18 months, leaving the long-term growth prospects for GaAs device revenue much more vulnerable.

To explore this potential game changing development, Strategy Analytics will lead a panel discussion titled, “The Death of GaAs?” at IMS 2013 in Seattle, WA. Please join analysts from Strategy Analytics, along with experts from the CMOS, SoI, SiGe, GaN and GaAs device industry as they discuss the advantages and disadvantages of these technologies and future trends in the GaAs device market.

Recent Articles by Eric Higham, Strategy Analytics

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