While the current 5G development is receiving unprecedented attention 5g narrowband iotfrom the industry, other connectivity standards such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and UWB are also evolving, which together are driving the growth of the RF front-end (RFEE) market.
RF front ends are a key part of mobile communication devices, and their role is to receive and transmit wireless signals and perform conversion of digital and analog signals. The importance of RF front-end is increasing in the era of 5g. 5g needs to support more frequency bands, more complex signal processing, and the position of RF front-end in the communication system is further increased. At the same time, RF front-end circuits need to adapt to higher carrier frequencies, wider communication bandwidth, more efficient and higher linearity of signal power output, and need to upgrade themselves to adapt to the changes of 5g, requiring huge innovations in overall structure, materials, and number of devices.
Industry insiders point out that RF front-end will be a very challenging and critical area for 5G, and the industry landscape is changing day by day.
5G era RF system front-end development is critical
Over the past few decades, the communications industry has experienced progressive iterations from 2G to 3G, then from 3G to 4G, and then from 4G to 5G. With the development of more frequency bands and the introduction of new technologies, high-speed networks have gained popularity and cell phones have transformed from functional devices for SMS calls to more diverse smart terminals for instant downloads, live social streaming and online games.
With this shift, communication performance has become an increasingly important measure for cell phones. rf, as the core component of the front-end, plays an even more important role. Its main role is twofold: on the one hand, it converts binary signals into high-frequency radio signals during the transmitting process, and on the other hand, it converts the received electromagnetic wave signals into binary digital signals during the receiving process.
In simple terms, the baseband signal processor technology is able to process the data signals needed to be able to convert information; digital signals, analog signal system for effective conversion. Subsequently we go through the RF chip enterprise for modulation, into RF signals. And the RF front-end is the RF signal through the filtering and amplification. Without RF front-end chip, mobile smart terminal devices such as cell phones will not be able to make calls and connect to China's network development as well as students to use the main functions of wireless communications. It can be said that the RF front-end has some indispensable role in wireless communication.
At the same time, the change development of RF front-end always follows the evolution of wireless data communication. Mobile Internet communication information technology from 2G development to 5G era, mobile learning network propagation speed requirements more and more the faster, need us to continuously improve the growth of RF front-end chip support. Today, RF front-end through for the community to support the ability to continue all day long problem of high-performance 5G terminal provides more with important. RF front-end mainly includes the modem and terminal antenna between the numerous RF components, affect and manage as well as wireless transmission and reception of the full realization of the signal. Compared to 4G's earlier approach of less than 20 band combinations, 5G has over 10,000 band combinations, significantly increasing the complexity of the RF front-end.
For 5G, this means not only high-speed data connections, but also massive IoT applications and low-latency, high-reliability scenarios. The future IoT will gradually access a large number of terminal devices and eventually realize massive connections. The large number of network interconnection will bring a significant growth of RF front-end chip demand. The frequencies used for narrowband IoT communication worldwide are distributed in the low to medium frequency range. Therefore, designers of RF front ends need to choose the optimal design solution in terms of broadband matching, harmonic suppression, ultra-low power consumption, and low cost.
The market outlook can be expected and the competitive landscape has changed
With the continuous enrichment of mobile terminal devices from cell phones to tablets and smart clothing, the gradual development of mobile medical, smart home and other emerging applications, the rising value of RF front-end chips has driven the rapid growth of the global RF front-end market.
According to Gartner forecasts, by 2026 RF system front-end for the market economy will reach $ 21 billion, with a compound annual growth rate of 8.3% between 2019 and 2026.
Globally, the traditional RF front-end market is dominated by the world's leading companies, mainly four manufacturers: Broadcom, Skyworks, Qorvo, and Murata. With the increasing complexity of communication systems and the rollout of ASPs, the integrated solution capability of the RF segment holds the largest market share. Since 2014, these giants have implemented a series of layouts to strengthen their RF chip layouts, with many baseband chip manufacturers entering the RF front-end market with SoC chips. Complete the acquisition and development of RF chips and baseband chips.
One of the most typical representatives is the expert. It acquired blacksand entered the filter market in 2014 with a joint venture with Japanese electronic component manufacturer tdk in 2016 to advance RF front-end technology in the 5 g era, and also released the world's first 5 g modem, the goldfish grass x50. in February 2017, experts launched a new RF front-end solution, rf360, which provides a complete solution from modem to complete solution for antennas.
On September 17, 2018, Experts bought TDK shares for $3.1 billion, and RF360 became a wholly owned subsidiary of Experts. The baseband plus RF360 RF solution proposed by Expert has a head start in the early stage of 5G rollout. the incremental increase of RF part for 5G cell phones is huge. Meanwhile, the envelope tracker introduced by Expert provides a cost-optimized solution for the RF front-end. Expert baseband with RF360 RF front-end layout was one of the few vendors in the market at that time to provide a solution covering antenna to modem. This model can significantly reduce costs in the supply chain and reduce the risk of developing designs.
Especially with the changing trend of 5G millimeter wave development, Expert System's entry into the front-end application area of RF technology in China is advantageous. Expert launched the X55, the successor research version of the X50, in February 2019, capable of carrying out the realization of enterprise up to 7Gbps downlink, and 3Gbps uplink data rates. Also launched the construction of matching RF front-end design solutions, most notably the QTM525 millimeter wave antenna module that supports the economic global millimeter wave bands (26GHz, 28GHz, 39GHz), which can get to achieve different thicknesses generally less than 8mm for 5G cell phones. Experts and scholars through the transceiver, switch and other front-end main devices and antenna array are integrated in a traditional module work, greatly simplifies the 5G cell phone market development management difficulty, and no effective internal control of the module size.
Experts say that RF front-end has become one of the four key business areas. With leading RF front-end performance and business expansion in all categories, the cumulative shipment of expert RF front-end units will reportedly reach 8 billion units by 2021, with individual component shipments exceeding 300 million units.
Beyond smartphones, there is a broader blue ocean market
The quarantine policy during the epidemic made the public aware of the importance of "connectivity", and freedom of movement wireless standards (such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and ultra-broadband technologies) have touched almost everyone's life. Wi-Fi, in particular, has become a necessity with its fast transmission speeds and low construction costs.
Wi-Fi is also one of the key battlegrounds through RF front-end. Compared with Bluetooth and GPS, Wi-Fi technology continues to iterate faster and the RF front-end is more complex. At present, only a few companies around the world can make a reasonable layout in terms of Wi-Fi RF front-end area with high scientific and technical trade barriers, and experts are one of the reasons why.
Recently, the experts announced the launch of the Wi-Fi 7 RF front-end module, extending its modem and RF advantages to Wi-Fi. The module is suitable for automotive applications, extended reality (XR), personal computers, wearable devices, mobile broadband and the Internet of Things.
The wireless RF front-end modules integrate the key components needed between the wireless baseband chip and the antenna to amplify and adapt the signal to support optimal wireless transmission. Manufacturers can use these modules to quickly and cost-effectively develop wi-fi client devices. The new modules support both 5g and wi-fi and work with expert Ultraabaw filters to support 5g/wi-fi concurrency and improve the performance of wireless connectivity using cellular network terminals.
According to the experts, the new RF front-end module is currently being prototyped. Commercial terminals equipped with this new solution are expected to be launched in the second half of 2022.
Smart development cellular network era, the expert's technology to carry out advantageous resources is very with obvious. 2021 fiscal year, the expert in the smartphone RF front-end field major revenue ranked first in the world. Experts have also been expanding information technology research applications in areas outside the smartphone market, such as our cars, IoT, PC, XR, etc. The launch of the new RF front-end module is in line with Expert's strategy to extend Expert's leadership in smartphones to automotive and IoT related areas through modem-to-antenna problem solving solutions, thus making Expert already a global leader in RF front-end covering a range of different service industries.
Most of the 5g automotive, 5g fixed wireless access cpe and 5g personal computers that have been released or are in development today use RF front-end technologies or components that are connected to the chip by Expertise. In addition, specialized RF front-end technologies are accelerating their adoption in consumer iot terminals such as wearable devices.
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