Explain the background of the formation of Ampleon.
In order to get regulatory approval for the NXP-Freescale merger, announced in March 2015, NXP announced it would divest the RF Power business at the same time. In fact, the NXP RF power business had been looking to separate for some time, given the lack of synergies with the other businesses within NXP. The merger enabled this to move forward more quickly.
In May 2015, NXP announced it would sell the RF power business to JAC Capital for $1.8 billion. Upon approval of all regulatory bodies, a new independent company, Ampleon, was established on December 7, 2015.
Does JAC Capital have a track record of funding and developing companies in the semiconductor or RF electronics market?
JAC Capital is a Chinese high tech industrial investment fund. JAC has acquired a number of semiconductor companies including Superfix, China’s second largest CMOS image sensor company, and many start-ups. It has also formed a joint venture with NXP for the bipolar business, where JAC holds 51 percent. The acquisition of the RF power business is its largest international acquisition so far. JAC will continue to look at opportunities in the semiconductor industry.
Mobile broadband constitutes 70 to 80 percent of the company’s activity. Explain Ampleon’s strengths in this market and the company’s plans to maintain it as a significant revenue stream.
Ampleon has structurally increased its market share in the mobile broadband market in the last several years, which migrated from 2G to 3G to 4G. Key strengths include world-class RF power technologies, worldwide application support and product consistency.
With its full focus on RF power, Ampleon will continue to strengthen its position as a leading global partner in RF power. While also growing its other businesses, the mobile broadband business will continue to be a significant revenue stream by investing to expand its product portfolio in both LDMOS and GaN technologies for 4G, small cells and pre-5G systems.
The acquisition by NXP of Freescale effectively makes the company the number one player in the LDMOS power amplifier market with Ampleon number two. Can Ampleon effectively compete for that number one slot, and what will be its strategy to achieve that?
With its unique focus on RF power technology and innovation, Ampleon is extremely well positioned to meet the growing market need for power, cost and space-efficient RF. This is not only in our key traditional markets — wireless infrastructure, broadcast, industrial, scientific and medical, aerospace and defense — but also in the new RF energy markets such as solid state cooking and plasma lighting. RF energy applications will see us establishing new partnerships and introducing new products as we embrace these exciting developments across the value chain. We will be working closely with customers to help them adopt RF energy technology into their designs.
With a clear focus to partner with customers to exploit the enormous opportunities of data and energy transfer in RF, Ampleon will increase its commitment to R&D and growing its engineering resources.
Ampleon is fabless on the front-end side. Who are you working with to maintain continuity?
Ampleon is indeed fabless on the front-end side. However, as part of the divestment agreement, we have safeguarded LDMOS wafer supply from NXP for at least five years to ensure full business continuity with our customer base. At the same time, we are actively working with new foundry partners in Asia for long-term supply solutions for our customers. In GaN technology, we continue to work with our foundry partner UMS in Germany.
On the back-end side, Ampleon will maintain the manufacturing facility in Manila in the Philippines. How important is this facility and what are its specific capabilities?
RF power requires very special package, assembly and test approaches. We are pleased to have our own facility, as this is key for our differentiation. The package platforms, together with our active and passive die, are optimized to deliver the best performance in the application. We have unique capabilities in order to produce these package platforms in our own manufacturing facility in the Philippines.
As well as being a leader in LDMOS, for the last ten years you have been developing GaN technology with UMS and the Fraunhofer institute in Germany. How do you envisage these technologies developing, and where will the company’s emphasis be in the future?
We have been shipping GaN products to the market for several years and have recently announced an extensive portfolio. Ampleon is investing heavily in both LDMOS and GaN technologies, as we see GaN gaining momentum beyond the A&D market into areas such as cellular infrastructure. Indeed we see significant growth opportunities in both market segments; but with respect to GaN, the technology offers us the opportunity to broaden our product offering to our customers.
Our GaN devices are optimized for best-in-class linearity, power efficiency and broadband power performance. Typical applications include use in commercial aviation and radar applications, aerospace and defense systems and broadband solutions.
You have stated that the RF energy market will be a specific focus for the company moving forward. What in particular excites you about the potential of this market? Explain Ampleon’s tie-in with the RF Energy Alliance?
Beside our mobile broadband and multi markets, we indeed have specific focus on the so-called RF energy markets. Market reports show that the size of the RF energy market, including solid state cooking, plasma lighting and spark plugs, may exceed the traditional RF power markets by 2020.
For the last several years we have been leading the development of RF energy with key players in the industry, developing ourselves as thought leaders in this area. Amongst other, Ampleon has co-founded the RF Energy Alliance, with its mission to “standardize, promote and educate target audiences in solid-state RF energy systems as heating and power generators.” This will enable us to develop the associated markets with current and future partners and customers.
Please expand on your previous statement that RF energy is one of the key reasons why JAC Capital acquired the company. Do you see RF Energy as being the main area of Ampleon’s technological growth and development in the future?
The traditional RF power markets have, over time, shown single digit growth with cyclic patterns. The emerging market of RF energy can turn the overall RF power market into a growth market, an attractive element for JAC to acquire the business. To a large extent, the base technologies, both front-end and back-end, can be leveraged across the traditional and emerging businesses. These synergies make the entrance into these markets so attractive.
Ampleon also addresses the aerospace and defense sector. What are your plans for this market?
Ampleon recognizes aerospace and defense (A&D) as a key growth area in its multi-market business. Being part of NXP in the past, where A&D was not a key focus area, we have only developed an initial position in the market. Ampleon will specifically target this market moving forward, with additional investments in technologies and products. With ITAR-free GaN, we have ample opportunities in the global market where we are selling dual-use (commercial and defense) products.
How important is research to Ampleon, and is the company committing a certain percentage of revenue to R&D?
With RF power as full focus, Ampleon has increased its R&D expenses as a percentage of annual revenues, relative to previous years. Growing in the target markets is a key objective. We are also further intensifying and extending co-operation with partners, universities and institutes to research and innovate future generation technologies.
In the first year of operation, what are Ampleon’s main goals?
In our first year of being an independent company, Ampleon will have full focus on business continuity with our customer base in all aspects. Secondly, we will focus on growing our business with our current and new customers in the above-mentioned markets. Finally, we want to make Ampleon a great place to work for our current and future employees!