11 January 2012

GaAs IC market growth slows to 1% in 2011

After growing 1.7% in 2009 then 36% in 2010, the gallium arsenide (GaAs) IC market grew just 1% in 2011, according to the ‘The GaAs IC Market’ from The Information Network (reported by Digitimes). The slowing growth was due to weak demand in wireless applications (cell phones and WiFi).

However, the wireless/WiFi market is expected to recover in 2012, so the GaAs IC market should rebound to 8% growth, forecasts the market research firm.

Multi-band 3G handsets often contain up to five power amplifiers (PAs), and GaAs makes up 100% of the market, which is nearly $5bn. Also, the number of PAs per handset is growing due to increasingly complex 3G systems, global roaming support, and data roaming support. Pricing for PAs has increased from $0.80 per handset to $2.90 currently, and is projected to increase to more than US$3.50 after long-term evolution (LTE) and advanced wireless services (AWS) spectrum emerge in advanced handsets in the marketplace, The Information Network notes.

However, while industrialized countries are using 3G networks, today’s world is a mixture of 2/2.5G and 3G networks. The vast majority of subscribers are actually on 2G-based networks, and this situation is predicted to remain for a number of years, market research firm reckons.

So, 2G handsets represent a sizable market, and contain just one PA. Because they are not as technologically advanced as 3G cell phones (particularly smartphones), silicon is therefore making inroads into the GaAs domain. For 2011, only 90% of PAs were made in GaAs, whereas 5% were made in silicon CMOS and 5% in silicon LDMOS, estimates The Information Network.

Besides the technical dynamics, GaAs RFIC maker Skyworks Solutions Inc of Woburn, MA, USA has positioned itself in the market through its mid-2009 acquisition of CMOS PA supplier Axiom Microdevices Inc of Irvine, CA. Also, in 2009 privately held Black Sand Technologies Inc of Austin, TX unveiled the world’s first 3G CMOS RF PA. Other CMOS PA suppliers include fellow Austin-based firm Javelin Semiconductor Inc and Amalfi Semiconductor of Los Gatos, CA. Another company said to be working on CMOS PAs is ACCO Semiconductor Inc of Sunnyvale, CA.

Tags: GaAs IC market GaAs PAs GaAs

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