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RF Front End Modules for Cellphones - Patent Landscape Analysis

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couv Rf front end modules for cellphones knowmade

Which players show enough active patenting activity to stay competitive and win the 5G race?

RF front-end module IP dynamic: an indicator of the race toward the 5G

The telecommunications revolution of the early 21st century has led to the development and proliferation of abundant communication devices . Recent estimates confirm that there is almost one mobile/cellular handset for every person on Earth. One consequence of such phenomenal growth in handset proliferation is the concomitant demand for data, which has led to the need to for more radio spectrum. Indeed, from four bands in the 2000s, we now use more than 30 bands - a number that will keep increasing with the upcoming 5G. To manage these bands, RF modules for mobile handsets have been widely developed to fulfil the increasing requirements.
Today we are at the first step of 5G networks that will become an RF communication standard in 2020. With approximatively 1.5B 5G cellphones expected shipping in 2025, the market for RF components in 5G applications is already strategically important. RF front-end modules (RF FEM) are among the key components for 5G applications, and the market will be highly impacted by the new standard. According to Yole Développement, the RF FEM market for 5G cellphones is estimated to reach USD $7.8B in 2020, and is further projected to reach USD $35.3B by 2025, at a CAGR of 35% from 2020 - 2025. 5G comes with strong technology challenges that could reshuffle the cards and change the mobile telecommunications landscape. IP strategy thus becomes critical for ensuring players a strong market position in the coming years.
For this report, Knowmade has thoroughly investigated the patent landscape for RF front-end modules (RF FEM) dedicated to mobile applications. We have evaluated the IP position of key players through detailed analysis of their patent portfolios, including the patents’ legal status, their geographic coverage, their claimed inventions, and their prior art contribution. We have also studied key players’ IP strategy and their IP blocking potential, along with their IP portfolio regarding technical solutions to address 5G application challenges (MIMO, beamforming, carrier aggregation, mm waves).

RF front end module IP dynamics KnowMade Yole

More than 1,380 RF FEM inventions have been published worldwide through 2017 by more than 500 patent applicants. Patenting activity related to RF FEM emerged in the late 80s with pioneers of mobile phone applications like Alcatel, Motorola, Panasonic, etc. RF FEM IP activity has been closely linked to development of a new standard. The first increase of patent publications in the 2000s parallels the democratization of mobile phones and the arrival of 2G and 3G standards. Since 2010, the upcoming 4G and 5G (which require developing new technologies) have revitalized patenting activity after 3G deployment and the market consolidation from 2008 - 2012. Today, the IP landscape related to RF FEM for cellphones is fueled by market leaders. Also, the rapid development of Chinese companies’ R&D activity is pushing long-term players to actively deploy and protect their inventions and market



This IP report reveals the key patents in this domain, as well as the current IP position of key players regarding technical approaches related to 5G applications.
The >1,380 patent families selected for the present study have been categorized by technology: beamforming, carrier aggregation, MIMO, and mm-waves. We have investigated the IP positioning of key players in each technological segment and provided a detailed description of seminal patents, blocking patents, and promising patents.

Main players IP position RF front end modules Knowmade yole



T500+ patent applicants are involved in the RF FEM-related patent landscape. This report unveils the key players’ position through detailed analysis of their patent portfolios. We provide an understanding of their patented technologies (especially those addressing 5G application challenges), their IP strategy, and their capability to limit IP activity and other firms’ freedom-to-operate. We also reveal the relative strengths of the top patent owners, derived from their patent portfolio sizes, technological impact factor, geographic coverage, blocking potential, and their most valued patents.


technology maturity vs IP activity RF front end KnowMade Yole


This report also includes an Excel database containing the > 3,800 patents and patent applications analyzed. This useful patent database allows multi-criteria searches and includes patent publication number, hyperlinks to the original documents, priority date, title, abstract, patent assignees, technological segments, and current legal status.

matrix main IP players strengths weaknesses knowmade yole


Table of contents

Introduction 4

> Report scope
> Report’s key features
> Report objectives


Context 10

> Market data
> Mergers and acquisitions


Methodology 19

> Patent search, selection, and analysis
> Search equations
> Terminology for patent analysis


IP landscape overview 26

> Time evolution of patent publications
> Main countries of filings
> Time evolution of publication countries
> Main patent assignees
> Legal status of patents from main IP players
> Publication countries of main patent assignees
> World-mapping of patent applications
> Time evolution of patent assignees


Comparative study of IP players 35

> IP leadership
> IP blocking potential
> IP enforcement potential
> Strength index











Segment analysis 42

> Methodology for patent categorization, for each segment:
    - Definition
    - Segment overview
    - Time evolution of patent publications
    - Main patent applicants
    - Main IP players’ countries of publication
    - Key patents in the segment


Key patents 92

> Seminal patent families
> Blocking patent families
> Promising patent families


Granted patents near expiration 129


IP profile of key players 136

> Murata, Broadcom, Qualcomm,
> Skyworks, Qorvo, OPPO
> For each player:
    - IP dynamics
    - Legal status of patents
    - Countries of filings
    - Key patents
    - Strengths and weaknesses of player portfolios


Conclusion 168


KnowMade presentation 170





About the authors

Knowmade is a Patent, Technology and Strategy consulting company involved in Microelectronics, Nanotechnology, Biotechnology and Life Sciences.

We provide Patent Search, Patent Landscape, Patent Analysis, Scientific Landscape, State of the Art, Technology Scouting, Technology Tracking, Alerts and Updates.

Our service offer consists of standard reports, custom studies & on-demand tracking, strategy consulting and training.

We combine information search services, scientific expertise, powerful analytics and visualization tools, and proprietary methodologies for analyzing patents and scientific information.

Knowmade supports research laboratories, industrial companies and investors in their business development. 












































  • IP trends, including time evolution of published patents and countries of patent filings
  • Patent segmentation by technology for 5G applications: Carrier aggregation, beamforming, MIMO, and mm-waves
  • Patents’ current legal status
  • Ranking of main patent assignees, by technological segments
  • Key patents and granted patents near expiration, by technological segments
  • Key players’ IP position and relative strength of their patent portfolios
  • Key players’ IP profile: Broadcom, Qualcomm, Skyworks, Qorvo, Murata, OPPO
  • Excel database with all patents analyzed in this report, including technology segmentation