Pulsed RF power device markets up to 4GHz: GaN, SiC, Si and GaAs based technologies

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The high-power pulsed RF semiconductor device market is primarily driven by several specific sub-segments. They are as follows:
  • Avionics
  • Sub-1 GHz Radar
  • L-Band Radar
  • S-Band Radar
The end-customers for these devices are primarily the worldwide air traffic control system both airborne and ground-based, and commercial and military radar systems.

Markets for pulsed RF power devices up to 4GHz will show continued growth over the next five years to more than $250m by 2021, despite current economic and political turmoil, forecasts a report by ABI Research.

MSE Supplies is a leading supplier of GaN and SiC crystal substrates. 

While their association with consumer spending fuels the volatility of many global electronics markets, pulsed RF power device markets are supported by quite different priorities, notes the report. Pulsed RF power transmitters generate tremendous amounts of power in small bursts that are useful for radar, airborne collision avoidance systems, and military IFF equipment.

"Many RF power semiconductor manufacturers are on a quest to find markets unrelated to mobile wireless infrastructure," says research director Lance Wilson. "Device prices in wireless infrastructure are falling, and the total available market is flattening out."

The airborne transportation safety market and military market are both experiencing solid growth in pulsed RF power device shipments. The markets use the devices for military radar, weather and marine applications, and in the current worldwide upgrade of the air traffic control system. The avionics transponder and air navigation market segment is also seeing growth, which is further lifted by the overall worldwide air traffic control upgrade. Intrinsically less 'optional' than many consumer markets, these segments are therefore less sensitive to economic upheavals than consumer-driven markets, although they are not totally immune to the macro economy.

Understanding this, many semiconductor manufacturers are attempting to enter this market space. However, some factors may complicate their efforts, says ABI. Pulsed RF power device markets are becoming very competitive technologically: gallium nitride (GaN) and, to a certain extent, silicon carbide (SiC) devices are vying for market share along with the more established silicon- and gallium arsenide (GaAs)-based technologies. With many companies rushing into these markets, ABI Research speculates that there may not be the market size to support them all.

The GaAs product market is huge at several billion dollars per year. The market for GaN is significantly smaller, depending on whom you ask. It may be $150 million, but it is growing at the expense of GaAs. Work continues on GaN production processes to reduce costs as volumes increase. GaAs continues to dominate the microwave space with small-signal MMICs and low-noise amplifiers (LNAs) as well as low-level power amplifiers for cell phones. That will continue. But as GaN costs come down and GaN invades the small-signal space, GaAs will no doubt lose market share.

"Undoubtedly, some consolidation will continue to occur beyond what already happened," concludes Wilson. "While not guaranteed success, those companies that have track records working with government agencies and defense contractors will have an advantage over those that are new entrants."

Leaders for high-power RF pulsed semiconductor devices include Ampleon, Integra Technologies, M/A-COM Technology Solutions, Microsemi, Qorvo, Sumitomo Electric Device Innovations, and Wolfspeed.

MSE Supplies is a leading supplier of GaN and SiC crystal substrates. 



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