Look beyond cellular for GaN markets "“ analyst
Over the past year, as the rest of the high power RF semiconductor market has been going through upheaval, the GaN sector has quietly progressed closer to maturity.
That s the message for the compound semiconductor community from Lance Wilson s 2007-2012 RF power semiconductor market outlook.
“I think GaN is on the cusp of starting to make an impact,” the ABI Research analyst told compoundsemiconductor.net.
Silicon LDMOS device makers for RF power applications are seeing rapid shifts in market share as lower-cost integrated monolithic chips are displacing incumbent discrete technologies. Wilson believes that even though the RF GaN community is unlikely to take advantage of this turmoil in LDMOS-dominated cellular infrastructure, it still has cause for optimism.
He pointed out that now Cree, Nitronex and RFMD are all production-ready, and that actual RF GaN sales are starting to creep through. The principal deals to date have been in the hush-hush military and budding WiMAX markets and so have not enjoyed a high profile, but the defense connection could be pivotal.
“The military market is significant because the average selling prices are very high,” Wilson said. “They're slowly climbing up that approval hill for military applications, and that's not something that happens overnight.”
“I think in the next year or two, they're going to be firmly entrenched in the military ultra-wideband market. That s been significant, but they'll never give out dollar figures.”
The main concern that Wilson raises is that these three companies still suffer from “schizophrenia” about how to market their GaN technology. They are still eyeing cellular infrastructure, which is the biggest segment in the $1 billion dollar RF power semiconductor market that Wilson predicts for 2012. He considers those who ignore his long-standing assertion that displacement of silicon LDMOS from this area is impossible simply to be courting disappointment.
From this strategic point of view, Wilson says that Japanese companies like Toshiba, Mitsubishi and Eudyna Devices, who focus on high-power microwave GaN engineering, are better off.
“They ve taken the long view of the market and have understood that trying to compete with silicon LDMOS on price is a losing proposition,” the analyst said.
“Those markets, those devices are not production-ready right now, even though tremendous capability has been displayed. In the short- to mid-term, that is where the explosion is going to be, in the microwave area with GaN.”
“I think the whole discussion gets perverted by the fixation on wireless infrastructure and I think that if one can look past that, there's a very bright future for SiC and GaN in RF power.”