While microwave and millimeter wave high-power vacuum electron devices (VEDs) remain “below the radar” of many industry observers, the total available market (TAM) for this segment is nearly $1 billion in 2012.

Despite its size, and although these tubes remain essential elements in specialized military, scientific/medical and space communications applications, this market is generally under-reported and poorly understood by those not directly involved in it.

This is now a stable industry after several rounds of consolidation in recent years. There is potential for some further consolidation, but there are no signs of that happening yet.

However, one new RF semiconductor technology – gallium nitride (GaN) – may change the landscape but has not yet done so to any meaningful scale. While it is not yet near monopolizing the microwave RF power industry, GaN is advancing steadily and is a technology that should be closely watched, as it will continue to be a threat to some aspects of the microwave and millimeter wave VED marketplace.

Lance Wilson, research director says, “The size of this historic market continues to surprise everyone and its longevity and firm resistance to RF power semiconductor encroachment is as surprising.”

“These specialized vacuum electron devices may at first seem anachronistic,” Wilson adds, “but in some cases there is no other way to generate such high levels of RF power within an acceptably small space. Certain microwave and millimeter wave VEDs can generate megawatts, and it would take tens of thousands of transistors to do that.”

ABI Research’s recent study, “Microwave and Millimeter Wave High-Power Vacuum Electron Devices: Still Holding Off the Gallium Nitride Threat” examines the microwave and millimeter wave high-power vacuum electron device market and assesses how gallium nitride (GaN) devices could affect that business. It will be of interest to organizations involved in defense electronics, energy and scientific research, and spacecraft electronics, as well as VED manufacturers, RF power semiconductor users and manufacturers, and government.

 These findings are part of ABI Research’s High-Power RF Active Devices research service which includes research reports, and market data.