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Will GaN-on-Si introduction help to capture more market share than Si-LDMOS?

Yoles latest market and technology report on “RF GaN Technology & Market Analysis: Applications, Players, Devices & Substrates 2010-2020” is due to be released 10 June 2014
Yole report that today, the need for high-power, high-frequency transistors is increasing steadily, commensurate with the huge demand for wireless telecommunications.

More power, more frequency bands, better linearity and improved efficiency are still driving RF semiconductor devices’ current development, since the market needs devices able to handle all of these specifications at a reasonable price.

Recent mergers and acquisitions are a concern for the overall RF market and Si-LDMOS, GaAs and GaN-based devices. The overall RF market doesn’t seem big enough for so many players; as a result, companies are trying to gain scale in order to increase profitability, which has stagnated. We expect that commercial wireless telecom, CATV and defense applications will be the main applications affected.

Although significant improvements have been achieved in RF GaN-based devices (performance and yields), Yole Développement believes there’s still a barrier preventing GaN-on-SiC from entering mainstream applications (i.e. in wireless telecom base stations or CATV). In sub-3.5 GHz range applications, GaN-on-SiC is not cost-effective enough vs. Si-LDMOS, resulting in low market penetration rates. Macom and IQE believe they will enter mass production using 6” and 8” GaN-on-Si substrates in two years. IQE will offer Macom a significant mass production level due to its existing production for other applications. Our analysis shows that GaN-on-Si could be implemented in 2 - 5 years within telecom base stations, Milcomm & CATV. In this optimistic scenario, RF GaN-based devices could see an increased penetration rate and reach more than 20 % of the overall RF device market by 2020.

This report is providing all the analysis on the applications, technical challenges and strategic initiatives related to the implementation of RF GaN for volume production.


Over the last several years, the silicon LDMOS coverage of high-power RF amplification applications in the 2GHz+ frequency range has decreased from 92% to 76%; the remaining 24% market share is mainly addressed by technologies such as GaAs pHEMT or HEMTs GaN. This equilibrium continues to be turned around by GaN HEMTs implementation. GaN HEMTs in wireless telecommunications is a higher-power and higher-frequency transistors alternative. From a system point of view, GaN is cost-competitive in applications over 3.5GHz. GaN devices continue to challenge silicon’s dominant position in an industrial playground in which a Power Amplifier (PA) market size of $1600M+ is forecasted for 2020.

Today, several companies (i.e. CREE, Triquint/RFMD, Sumitomo, RFHIC, MACOM/Nitronex, Mitsubishi, NXP, Microsemi) have GaN device portfolios covering a wide range of applications. GaN has progressed significantly over the last five years; several thousand devices have been developed and implemented in applications such as radar, CATV, space applications with satellite communication, counter-IED jammers, CATV modules, 3G/4G base-stations, WIMAX/LTE PAs and general purpose applications.

In our nominal case, RF GaN-based devices could reach more than 18% of the overall RF device market by 2020 (i.e. a 9 % CAGR from 2013-2020). More details per application, type of devices, business models, etc. can be found in the report.



GaN offers better power capability and linearity compared with commonly-used pure silicon or GaAs-based technologies, enabling higher performance and lower overall system costs.

•Higher efficiency: ◦lower operating costs

◦improved module power density and size

◦reduced cost of ownership

•Higher bandwidth and linearity: ◦more versatile devices

◦fewer devices needed to cover the entire frequency spectrum

◦cost savings at the development stage

•Higher polarization voltage: ◦lower current level for the same power output

◦fewer losses from the joule effect, leading to cost savings in thermal management

•Higher junction temperature: ◦more robust devices, leading to improved expected lifetime and mean time to failure (MTTF)

◦reduced cooling system demands, leading to cost savings at the system level (BTS)

The report is evaluating such added value, in addition to the production cost of GaN-based devices today and within 5 years. The production cost impact at system level of the use of RF GaN devices is also analysed in details, in order to understand what are the added costs at device level and the cost savings at system and module level.
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