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GaN to Drive Pulsed RF Power Chip Market


Markets for pulsed RF power devices up to 18GHz are expected to show continued growth over the next five years despite the current economic turmoil and cuts in defense spending. While their association with consumer spending fuels the volatility of many global electronics markets, pulsed RF power devices are supported by quite different priorities. According to market analyst ABI Research, the pulsed RF power semiconductor device market will exceed $300 million by 2019, with GaN driving growth.

"Many RF power semiconductor manufacturers are on a quest to find markets unrelated to mobile wireless infrastructure," notes ABI Research Director Lance Wilson. "Device prices in wireless infrastructure are falling, and the total available market is flattening out."

Some markets that use pulsed RF power devices, such as transportation safety and military, are experiencing solid growth even in the midst of today's economic downturn. These devices are used in radars for military, weather and marine applications, and in the current worldwide upgrade of the air traffic control system. There is also a market segment devoted to the avionics transponder and air navigation market, which is also lifted by the overall air traffic control upgrade.

Intrinsically less "optional" than many consumer markets, these segments are therefore less sensitive to economic upheavals than consumer-driven markets, although they are not totally immune to the macro economy.

Understanding this, many semiconductor manufacturers are attempting to enter this market space; however, some factors may complicate their efforts. Pulsed RF power device markets are becoming very competitive technologically: GaN and SiC devices are vying for market share along with the more established Si and GaAs based technologies. However, the market may not be able to support all the new entrants. "Undoubtedly some consolidation will continue to occur. While not guaranteed success, those companies that have a track record working with government agencies and defense contractors are going to have an advantage over those that are new entrants," adds Wilson.

Among the leaders for high-power RF pulsed semiconductor devices are, M/A-COM Technology Solutions, TriQuint, Microsemi, NXP Semiconductors, Cree, Sumitomo Electric Device Innovations, and Integra Technologies.

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