Technavio analysts forecast the global radio frequency (RF) IC market to grow at a CAGR of nearly 12% during the forecast period, according to their latest report.
The research study covers the present scenario and growth prospects of the global RF IC market for 2016-2020. To calculate the market size, the report considers revenue generated from the shipment of RF ICs globally.
Asia-Pacific (APAC) is expected to be the major demand generating region and is expected to be the major contributor to the market during the forecast period. This is because of the growing demand for RF IC’s in the consumer electronics segment and 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 led to the increasing consumption of RF ICs in this region.
Increased demand for electronics from countries such as China and India drives 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 semiconductors’ demand in China is actually produced domestically.
Technavio hardware and semiconductor analysts highlight the following four factors that are contributing to the growth of the global RF IC market:
- Deployment of next-generation LTE wireless networks
- Advent of carrier aggregation
- Use of new materials for manufacture of RF devices
- 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. Though specific bands have been designated for LTE, they vary from carrier to carrier.
Sunil Kumar Singh, one of the lead embedded systems research analysts at Technavio, says, “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. 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 results in an increase in RF content in smartphones and tablets. Carrier aggregation combines a wide range of the available spectrum at the same time to increase download and upload speeds. Though carrier aggregation is not a widespread concept currently, it has already been implemented in South Korea.
“The RF signals are transmitted and received using transceiver chips, which are integrated into RF modules as a component. The advent of carrier aggregation will compel transceiver chip manufacturers to improve and upgrade their offerings according to the requirements of the OEMs,” adds Sunil.
Use of new materials for manufacture of RF devices
The manufacture of RF devices such as power amplifiers 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 incurred in the manufacturing process of RF devices. The development of new materials such as 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.
The new materials display a superior level of integration with other electronic components such as switches being fabricated in silicon on sapphire or other silicon on insulator processes. While, 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 trying 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 witness increased adoption during the forecast period, accounting for a little more than 20% by 2020. One of the major factors contributing to it is the decrease in the development cost of RF technology-based products. Moreover, RF remotes are expected to gain traction in the market because of advantages compared with 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 witness 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, incorporation of gesture recognition and voice controls, and enhanced bandwidth compared to IR.
The key vendors are:
- Infineon Technologies
- Avago Technologies
- Skywork Solutions
- NXP Semiconductors
- Renesas Electronics