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GaAs IC market grew only 1% in 2011 after a 36% flourish in 2010

The good news is that the wireless/WiFi market should recover in 2012 and the gallium arsenide IC market should register an 8% gain

Weak wireless demand resulted in nearly stagnant growth in GaAs ICs in 2011, according to the report “The GaAs IC Market,” recently published by The Information Network, a Tripoli, PA-based market research company.

“Every cell phone contains Power Amplifiers (PAs), which enable the handset to transmit voice and data back to the base station tower to route a call to another phone number or Internet address. PAs, the most critical radio frequency component in the phone are currently dominated by circuits made with GaAs,” noted Robert Castellano, president of The Information Network.

GaAs ICs grew 1% in 2011 following a 36% in 2010, as a result of weak demand in wireless – cell phones and WiFi.  This represents the smallest growth since a 1.7% gain in 2009.

3G handsets often contain up to five PAs, and GaAs makes up 100% of the market, which is close to $5 billion. In addition, the number of PAs per handset is growing because of: complex 3G systems, global roaming support, and data roaming support. Pricing for PA’s has increased from $0.80 per handset to $2.90 currently and is projected to increase to greater than $3.50 once Long Term Evolution (LTE) and Advanced Wireless Services (AWS) spectrum emerge in advanced handsets in the marketplace.

While industrialised countries are using 3G networks, today’s world is a mixture of 2/2.5G and 3G networks, the heavy majority of subscribers are actually on 2G-based networks — and predicted to remain so for a number of years. Of the new handsets sold in 2010, about 50% will still be 2G. Between 70 to 80% of Skyworks’ and RF Micro Device’s GaAs business is in PAs.

2G handsets contain 1 PA, so it represents a sizable market.  Because they aren’t as technologically advanced as 3G cell phones, particularly smartphones, silicon is making inroads in the GaAs domain. For 2011, only 90% of PAs were made in GaAs, 5% in silicon CMOS, and 5% in silicon LDMOS. 

Besides the technical dynamics, Skyworks has positioned in the market by its mid-2009 acquisition of CMOS PA supplier Axiom Micro Devices. Also, in September 2009, privately held Black Sand announced the world’s first 3G CMOS RF PA. Black Sand’s proprietary CMOS PA architecture offers a breakthrough in combined performance, cost, battery life, and reliability for mobile devices. Other CMOS PA companies of note include Javelin and Amalfi. Another firm rumoured to be working on CMOS PAs is ACCO.

The Information Network is a consulting and market research company addressing the semiconductor, LCD, HDD, nano, and solar industries. 
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