Consumer demand for mobile phones weakened in 2018, resulting in a market decline. In this context, the competition has intensified, creating an emulation to push 5G forward. Yole Développement (Yole) has announced an eight percent CAGR between 2018 and 2025 for the RF front-end market. Reaching $15bn in 2018, this industry should reach $25.8bn by 2025, according to the RF electronics team at Yole.
Cédric Malaquin, Technology & Market, at Yole commented: “With LTE, RF front-end market growth came from carrier aggregation and MIMO technologies. 5G will augment RF front-end market growth with additional frequency bands, dual connectivity implementation, and the transition to 4×4 MIMO in the downlink direction, plus a trend towards 2×2 MIMO for the uplink.”
Apple is also part of this attractive playground. Therefore, for the second year, Apple has decided to adopt innovative technology in the RF area. Along with module from Qorvo and Skyworks, the company has chosen the latest and most advanced filter and packaging technology from Broadcom, formerly Avago Technologies.
Stéphane Elisabeth, Expert Cost Analyst at System Plus Consulting, said: “This technology is now available in all versions of the iPhone Xs, Xs max and Xr models. And he adds: “This FEM is the first from Broadcom to include a flip-chip power amplifier on GaAs substrate and advanced EMI shielding, allowing frequency band sharing in the same SiP.”
Yole Group of Companies including Yole and System Plus Consulting are covering the RF electronics technologies and related applications for a while. They propose a valuable collection of technology, market and reverse engineering reports to describe this industry and point out the technology evolution and its impact on the market. The battle for 5G still rages: what could we expect? Integration in-module or with discrete parts.
Without doubt, the RF front-end & connectivity market is today showing more content and more cost pressure, announces Yole in its latest technology and market report, 5G’s Impact on RF Front-End Module and Connectivity for Cell phones 2019.
“Integrated module growth is forecast at an eight percent CAGR from 2018 to 2025, while discrete parts will grow nine percent over the same period,” added Antoine Bonnabel, Technology & Market Analyst at Yole. “Among discrete parts, antenna tuner will grow the most with a 13% CAGR because of the combined implementation of higher-frequency bands and 4×4 MIMO, leading to an increasing number of antenna and/or antenna tuners.”
High-end smartphone OEMs are seeking new ways to integrate more into one device, along with better isolation techniques for all the front-end communication devices, in a market with high-quality competitors.
To keep track of the industry’s evolution and see what’s coming, System Plus Consulting performed a comparative analysis to identify and understand the numerous integration strategies developed by the leading smartphones companies. The ‘RF Front-End Module Technical Comparison 2019’ is now available.
Familiarity with the mobile phone’s RF front-end architecture is critical to understanding this market. Yole and System Plus Consulting combine their technical expertise and industrial knowledge to deliver a comprehensive description of the RF industry evolution. In particular, System Plus Consulting, with its US-based team is day by day developing a dedicated intelligence. With more than one smartphone analyzed per week, analysts are step by step created a huge knowledge database. An overview of System Plus Consulting’s teardowns is available on the website, reverse-costing.
Jim Mielke, VP Teardown Activities at System Plus Consulting, explained: “The main phone manufacturers differentiate from each other in the RF field by adopting either an integrated or a discrete approach. In the former segment, market leaders Samsung and Apple, along with smaller OEMs like Sony, LG, Google, and ZTE, are moving towards integration with complex RF modules from Broadcom, Skyworks, Qorvo, Qualcomm, and Murata.
“’Integrated’ players prefer to focus on the user experience with innovative features like ‘Face ID’, wireless charging, AI camera, gesture recognition, and the human machine interface, thus leaving most of the RF front-end’s complexities to the RF module makers.”
Meanwhile, markets challengers like Huawei, Xiaomi, Oppo, and Vivo, which drive as much volume as the market leaders, favor a discrete approach whenever possible. This allows them to keep the RF BoM as low as possible in order to offer aggressive selling prices in this competitive market.
A comparison of teardowns for Huawei’s P20 Pro and Samsung’s S10 illustrates these opposing strategies. The P20 Pro RF board is made of 45 discrete components and four integrated modules, incorporating 25 components, while the Samsung S10 comprises 17 discrete components and eight integrated modules with 71 components.
Consequently, the BoM for the RF front-end in the S10 ends up being double that of the P20 Pro, even though both devices exhibit similar downlink-speed performance. Also, both devices support more than 30 bands and use similar technologies, such as carrier aggregation and 4×4 MIMO. More information about System Plus Consulting’s teardown on reverse-costing.
All year long, Yole and System Plus Consulting are delivering their results during presentations and interviews. As an example, last month, Cédric Malaquin from Yole had the opportunity to debate with Rich Ruby, Director of FBAR Technology, and William Muller, Principal Technology Strategist, at Broadcom. Together, they share their vision of the future and 5G implementation.
Muller said: “By definition disruptive changes are hard to anticipate. However, I believe continued evolution of present technologies is more likely than any disruptive change. The installed base of technologies appears to be very capable of supporting the requirements that have so far been identified for 5G. So far, we have been able to shrink the footprint required per band by about 15-20% per year, compensating for added functionality.
“Mature high-volume processes are also typically less costly than radically new processes. The need for multiple simultaneous connections means tunable filtering is not the answer, due to reduced selectivity inherent in tunable schemes. I would say the biggest challenges of 5G come not from the filters, where we have answers, but from the antennas, where in many cases we don’t.”