Semiconductor Industry to Support Technologies beyond 5G Network
The worldwide race to deploy 5G wireless networks is still in its early stages, but researchers at Carnegie Mellon University are already looking beyond 5G. The massive interconnected web of IoT and personal devices enabled by 5G will increase demand for higher data rates and lower latency. A new report from Strategy Analytics forecasts that 270 million 5G user devices and 1.7 million 5G base station sectors will ship in 2022. While 5G networks are poised for broader deployment, the latest report from Strategy Analytics’ Advanced Semiconductor Applications (ASA) service addresses 5G architectures, trends and developments that will influence the market share and growth trajectory of different technologies in the compound semiconductor industry.
We’re already witnessing some of these previously unimaginable technologies become reality — self-driving cars, entire augmented reality ecosystems, VR and AI assistants, and completely automated factory floors, just to name a few — and as 5G becomes more ingrained and standardized into our daily lives, users can expect to see developments that continue to surpass expectations. The 5G standard supports both sub-6 GHz and millimeter wave (28 GHz and higher) segments. It will depend in part on arrays of picocells in urban areas. As we go to point-to-point architectures with millimeter-wave frequencies, customers may put their power amplifiers directly behind the antenna. As the demand on the technology increases, the level of integration increases, putting demands on the process technology to provide better linearity and robustness. One might call it a ‘Golden age for semiconductors’ through the next 10 to 20 years, as autonomous vehicles, 5G networks, and virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR) help drive the industry to new heights.
The impacts on the semiconductor industry will be widespread. End-user devices and base stations will need to manage multiple-input and multiple-output (MIMO) and beam-steering technologies, which translate into more channels and expanded demand for bulk acoustic wave (BAW) filters, antennae, power management, and other devices.
To help cope with the power issues, systems will employ more sophisticated envelope-tracking technologies. While not completely new (they were introduced during the rollout of 4G), these chips are used in RF power amplifiers to track the signal and boost the power on an as-needed basis rather than constantly supplying high power. With the speed increase of 5G these envelope-tracking technologies shift from employing laterally diffused metal oxide semiconductor (LDMOS) and gallium arsenide (GaAs) to gallium nitride (GaN) in order to manage the higher power while still accommodating the even higher switching speeds required.
While 5G can be thought of as a fifth-generation wireless standard, there is much more at potential velocity in the Semiconductor domain.