How will GaN and GaAs markets grow and compete? | Quarterly Market Monitor

Yole Développement (Yole) delivers its latest Compound Semiconductor Quarterly Market Monitor that brings unique insight to what is driving the steadily rising revenues of power GaN, RF GaN and RF GaAs markets.

Aim of the Compound Semiconductor Quarterly Market Monitor is to provide an in-depth coverage of rapidly changing market dynamics and main players’ status and strategy. The market research and strategy consulting company is publishing its analysis every beginning of March (Q1), June (Q2), September (Q3) and December (Q4), with two modules:

  • Module I: GaN and SiC for power electronics applications
  • Module II: GaAs and GaN for RF electronics applications

Today, the Compound Semiconductor team invites you to explore a snapshot of this industry, with the Q2 2021 results.

Be it power GaN, RF GaN or RF GaAs markets, buoyant times lie ahead thanks to the ever-growing telecoms and smartphone markets, always-steady defense sector and emerging automotive applications, reports Yole in its latest Compound Semiconductor Quarterly Market Monitor.

“GaN power device revenue is forecast to grow from less than $50 million in 2020 to more than $1 billion by 2026 while the RF GaN market can also expect significant growth from $891 million to more than $2.5 billion in the same time-frame” writes Ezgi Dogmus, Team Lead Analyst at Yole. “Meanwhile, the RF GaAs bare die market is set to nudge $4 billion by 2026.”

But as new entrants jostle for attention in the power GaN market and additional capacity is rolled out for the RF GaN sector can the tried-and-tested RF GaAs segment hold onto its ample market lead?

Power GaN applications

Without a doubt, the market for power GaN applications remains buoyant. Following a dip in quarterly revenue growth from 2019 to 2020, revenues have been steadily rising from Q2 2020 with many industry players making the most of the market revival.

As early as 2018, Ireland-based GaN semiconductor developer, Navitas Semiconductor was using GaN ICs in its GaNFast smartphone fast chargers and since the end of 2020, many more industry players have followed this lead. For its part, Navitas recently joined forces with Live Oak Acquisition Corp, US, to go public in a SPAC deal valued at $1.04 billion.

“This critical industry development follows in the footsteps of US-based business, Transphorm, which went public in 2020,” comments Ahmed Ben Slimane, Technology & Market Analyst from Yole. And he adds: “And now Navitas is ramping fast GaN charger shipments to the likes of Dell, Lenovo, LG and Xiaomi and more. “

The company also intends to extend its portfolio from fast chargers to datacoms, telecoms, e-mobility, industrial, energy and other applications, signalling strong market confidence.

In another positive move, US-based power IC business, Power Integrations, recently released the MinE-CAP IC for high power density AC-DC converters, adopted in the new Anker Nano II fast charger model. Targeting compact chargers and adapters, the IC shrinks the volume of AC-DC converters by up to 40%, raises efficiency, and importantly, increases the dollar content of GaN in devices, factors that can only help to raise Power Integration’s GaN market share.

STMicroelectronics is also extending its reach into the power GaN market. After acquiring majority stakes of France’s GaN-on-silicon power device player, Exagan, in 2020 and partnered with the Taiwanese giant TSMC, the French-Italian semiconductor manufacturer has released integrated GaN devices and is targeting consumer and automotive applications. In a further development, the company has teamed up with the Renault Group to develop GaN and SiC power semiconductors for electric and hybrid vehicles.

Along the way, EPC, Transphorm, GaN Systems and Infineon have all had design wins for telecoms and datacoms markets, with EPC also delivering radiation hardened GaN devices for demanding space applications. And players such as Transphorm, EPC, Texas Instruments and GaN systems qualified their GaN FETs for automotive markets.

Given the abundance of industry developments, the power GaN market is clearly on track for further growth. And while both Navitas and Power Integrations currently represent more than 50% of the total GaN power device market, expect change as more players enter the market.

A case in points is China’s Innoscience. With its 8 inch GaN-on-silicon fab, the integrated device manufacturer currently has a capacity of 4,000 wafers per month but intends to drastically increase this figure to some 65000 wafers per month in the coming years, after its new Suzhou facility completed – yet another sign that the power GaN market is only set to grow.

Growth for RF GaN

As the RF GaN market continues to gather momentum, 5G telecoms and infrastructure remains a key driver for this market with high power, high bandwidth GaN components having penetrated base stations, remote radio heads and MIMO active antenna systems. Indeed, Yole estimates this market segment to exceed $1billion by 2026, representing 42% of the entire market.

At the same time, the defense sector also continues to drive growth with applications expected to represent up to 48% of the entire market by 2026. GaN is being more widely used in lightweight transmit/receive modules for AESA radar airborne systems and is also deployed in fixed satellite communications.

Emerging applications include handsets and mobile satellite communications. Difficult GaN qualification may hinder the technology’s adoption in satellite communications, but this could change. For example, the European Space Agency is currently working with partners such as Airbus to develop GaN power amplifiers for antennae; and projects such as this will promote the adoption of GaN in space applications.

Still, the billion-dollar question for many in the RF GaN market is when will the technology truly find its way into consumer mobile handsets?

“Two years ago STMicroelectronics revealed it was working on GaN-on-silicon-based power amplifiers for handsets, and now a further major industry player has expressed similar interests,” explains Poshun Chiu, Technology & Market Analyst at Yole. “Given these market movements, Yole expects to see GaN power amplifiers being adopted in mobile and consumer applications from 2022.”

Technology choices

“From word go, GaN-on-SiC has been the leading light in the RF GaN industry, having launched more than 20 years ago and now rivalling LDMOS and GaAs in RF power applications,” asserts Selsabil Sejil, Technology & Market Analyst, part of the Compound Semiconductor & Emerging substrates team at Yole. “Indeed, our figures indicate GaN-on-SiC will grow from US$886 million in 2020 to US$2.2 billion in 2026, with a 17% CAGR. “

Promising market developments are afoot. For example, foundries, including GaAs and GaN-on-SiC producer, WIN Semiconductors of Taiwan, are expanding capacity to meet market demand.

Also, NXP Dutch-American semiconductor manufacturer as well as industry partners, US-based II-VI Advanced Materials and Japanese Sumitomo Electric Device Innovations, are building 6-inch GaN-on-SiC facilities in the US. Indeed II-VI and Sumitomo are set to churn out wafers for 5G base stations later this year. Critically, each new fab also opens the door to the all-important transition from 4- to 6-inch wafer fabrication, with the economies of scale this will bring.

Still, as GaN-on-SiC streaks ahead, less established but low cost and scalable GaN-on-silicon looks set to rapidly win market share. Yole predicts GaN-on-silicon will grow from less than US$5 million in 2020 to US$173 million in 2026, with a 86% CAGR.

In the last few years, US-based Macom teamed up with STMicroelectronics to develop the technology for telecom OEMs while France-based foundry, OMMIC, offers GaN-on-silicon processes for mm-wave applications.  And in a promising industry development, Raytheon has recently joined forces with GlobalFoundries to develop and commercialize GaN-on-silicon semiconductors for 5G and 6G mobile and wireless infrastructure in defense, and future telecom and handset applications. There are also many foundries looking into GaN-on-Si technology for RF applications, as new business opportunities emerge in consumer mobile applications.

RF GaAs holds on

What about RF GaAs? Despite facing competition to GaN and SiGe in high power and high frequency applications, such as telecom and infrastructure, RF GaAs currently holds the largest market share by quite a margin – and this figure is set to grow.

With the launch of Apple’s iPhone 12 handsets to support 5G in 2020, the demand for GaAs is on the rise again, with the industry’s tried-and-tested compound semiconductor being a key building block in power amplifiers for sub-6GHz band. Along with the factor in the launch of WiFi 6 and WiFi 6E, handset connectivity from smartphone manufacturers keeps driving the demands of RF GaAs. Yole predicts RF GaAs market share will edge towards a mighty $4 billion from now until 2023. However, in telecom and infrastructure, GaAs is predicted to lose some of this market share to competing technologies such as GaN and SiGe.

While GaAs will largely rely on handsets to drive growth, the gradual deployment of the automotive connectivity, C-V2X, technology will require more RF GaAs devices, and could counter any market losses to competing technologies. For example, a GaAs HBT power amplifier from US-based semiconductor manufacturer, Qorvo, has been designed into a cellular V2X reference design from Qualcomm Technologies, US.

Alongside rising RF GaAs demand, GaAs wafer manufacturing capacities continue to increase. In addition to expansions from WIN Semiconductor, Taiwan’s pure 6-inch GaAs foundry, AWSC, intends to raise capacities from 12,000 wafers a month to 20,000 wafers a month by the end of this year. Also, GaAs epitaxy player, VPEC, is expanding capacity and adding more MOCVD systems to its facility. At wafer level, Germany-based Freiberger Compound Materials recently acquired a fab to expand GaAs wafer manufacturing for both RF and optoelectronics.

Yole’s Compound Semiconductor team will publish Compound Semiconductor Quarterly Market Monitor Module III, including GaAs and InP for optoelectronic applications in Q3-2021.

About the Compound Semiconductor & Emerging Substrates team

Ahmed Ben Slimane, PhD. is a Technology & Market Analyst, specialized in Compound Semiconductors and Emerging Substrates at Yole (Yole).

As part of the Power & Wireless team, Ahmed is contributing to the development of dedicated collection of compound semiconductors market & technology reports and monitor. Previously, he worked as an epitaxy (MBE/MOCVD) & fabrication process engineer for GaAs-based photovoltaic applications at TOTAL and IPVF (Paris-Saclay, France). Ahmed also completed his PhD in Material Engineering from KAUST (Saudi Arabia), where his mission was focused on GaN-based microstructures for flexible solid-state lighting.

During his career, Ahmed has presented work in front of an international audience. He has authored/co-authored more than 20 publications in the semiconductor field and submitted a patent on the III-V hetero-structure for the PV industry. Ahmed obtained his master’s degree in electronic engineering from INPG (Grenoble, FR).

Ezgi Dogmus, PhD. is Team Lead Analyst in Compound Semiconductor & Emerging Substrates activity within the Power & Wireless Division at Yole (Yole).

She is managing the expansion of the technical expertise and the market know-how of the company.

In addition, Ezgi actively assists and supports the development of dedicated collection of market & technology reports, monitor as well as custom consulting projects.

Prior to Yole, Ezgi worked as a process development engineer for GaN-based RF and power solutions at IEMN (Lille, France). After graduating from University of Augsburg (Germany) and Grenoble Institute of Technology (France), Ezgi received her PhD. in Microelectronics at IEMN (France).

Poshun Chiu is a Technology & Market Analyst specializing in Compound Semiconductor and Emerging Substrates at Yole (Yole). As a member of the Power Electronics & Wireless division at Yole, Poshun focuses on power, RF, and opto-electronics. He is engaged in the development of technology and market reports and is also involved in custom projects.

Before joining Yole, Poshun had 9 years’ experience in R&D and product management at Epistar (TW & CHN). He is the author or co-author of more than 10 patents in solid-state-lighting. Poshun was also engaged in the development and evaluation of novel applications of process technology and components based on relevant semiconductor material systems

Poshun received an MSc degree in Microelectronics from National Cheng Kung University (TW) and an MBA from IESEG School of Business (FR).

Selsabil Sejil, PhD. is a Technology & Market Analyst, specialized in Compound Semiconductors and Emerging Substrates at Yole (Yole).  As part of the Power & Wireless team, Selsabil is contributing to the development of dedicated collection of compound semiconductors market & technology reports and monitor.

Previously, she worked as an Integration Engineer for SOI products at SOITEC (Grenoble, France). She also worked in CEA as a process development engineer for 5G applications.

Selsabil obtained her PhD. in Material Science from Claude Bernard University (Lyon, France) in collaboration with STMicroelectronics (Tours, France), where her works explored and optimized all the facets of the complete manufacturing of power electronic devices, with a focus on the optimization of SiC epitaxy.During her career, Selsabil SEJIL authored/co-authored more than 8 publications in the semiconductor field.

Selsabil was graduated from University Paris Sud with a master’s degree in NanoSciences (Orsay, France).

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