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'$100m market for GaN RF transistors by 2010'

As Cree launches a GaN MMIC foundry service, Yole Developpement predicts that this week's MTT-S show will see the release of new wide-bandgap devices and deployment by systems integrators.

The market for GaN-based RF transistors will increase from just $17 million in 2007 to reach $100 million in 2010, claim market analysts at France-based Yole Développement.

A new report, authored by Philippe Roussel, suggests that the wide-bandgap material is finally able to challenge the dominance of silicon LDMOS, thanks to the variety of new wireless communication protocols now emerging.

Although the technology was originally touted for 3G cellular infrastructure, GaN has been unable to displace LDMOS and GaAs FETs from base stations "“ the one exception being NTT/Docomo s use of Eudyna Devices technology in a Japanese test network, says Roussel.

"WiMAX and long-term evolution (LTE) is much more open [to GaN] as everything has to be built," he commented. "New players are entering the market with no a priori on the technology."

With a strong penetration of those emerging base station architectures, sales of GaN-based RF transistors could reach $100 million as early as 2010, says Roussel s report. It adds that the potential conflict between LTE and WiMAX will not widely impact this growth.

A few clues to the current deployment and testing of GaN transistors in WiMAX and LTE applications should emerge at this week s MTT-S event in Atlanta, Georgia (see related links).

Cree has just announced performance improvements to its GaN-on-SiC RF transistors, with 90 W components now available, and a GaN MMIC foundry service.

Rival TriQuint Semiconductor is expected to announce its own developments in Atlanta, while Roussel is expecting to see releases of both new devices and of applications by system integrators.

If they are successful with their new offerings, the market for GaN RF chips should start to look very different.

Roussel believes that nearly 65 per cent of these devices were used in research applications in 2007, with 3G base station, defense and satellite deployments accounting for the remaining share of only $6 million or so.

But in 2012, there ought to be a broadly even split between WiMAX/LTE, defense and 3G base stations, with broadcast applications starting to emerge.

Yole Développement s report "GaN RF Market Analysis 2008" is scheduled for release on June 30, at a price of €3,990.

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