What opportunities will 5G RF bring to the packaging industry?

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The RF System-in-Package (SiP) market can be divided into two parts: primary packaging of various RF devices, such as chip/wafer-level filters, switches, and amplifiers (including RDL, RSV, and/or bump steps); and secondary SiP packaging during the surface mount technology (SMT) stage, where various devices are assembled with passive components on the SiP substrate. In 2018, the total size of the RF front-end module SiP market (including primary and secondary packaging) was US3.3billion,anditisexpectedtogrowatacompoundannualgrowthrate(CAGR)of11.35.3 billion by 2023.

In 2018, wafer-level packaging accounted for approximately 9% of the total RF SiP assembly market. In this new report, Yole has studied in detail the SiP market for various radio frequency front-end modules in the mobile domain, including PAMiD (Power Amplifier Module with Integrated Diplexer), PAM (Power Amplifier Module), Rx DM (Receive Diversity Module), ASM (Switch Multiplexer, Antenna Switch Module), Antenna Coupler (Multiplexer), LMM (Low Noise Amplifier - Multiplexer Module), MMMB PA (Multi-Mode, Multi-Band Power Amplifier), and millimeter-wave front-end modules. By 2023, PAMiD SiP assembly is expected to account for 39% of the total revenue in the RF SiP market.

By 2023, the RF front-end SiP market for cellular and connectivity will account for 82% and 18% of the total SiP market, respectively. By cellular communication standard, front-end modules supporting 5G (sub-6GHz and millimeter-wave) will account for 28% of the total RF SiP market in 2023. High-end smartphones will contribute 43% of the RF front-end module SiP assembly market, followed by low-end smartphones (35%) and luxury smartphones (13%).

The 4G RF front-end SiP supply chain is led by a few integrated device manufacturers (IDMs) such as Qorvo, Broadcom (Avago), Skyworks Solutions, and Murata, who outsource some SiP assembly to OSAT vendors. Qualcomm has gradually become an important supplier of RF front-end solutions for 5G, especially for 5G millimeter-wave (having received orders from multiple mobile OEM vendors), and is expected to maintain a leading position in the future. In fact, Qualcomm is the only vendor that can provide a complete solution for 5G, including modem, antenna module, and application processor. As a fabless company, Qualcomm outsources all SiP assembly, which brings more business opportunities for OSAT vendors.

In addition, IDM vendors are paying more attention to 5G sub-6Ghz RF front-end solutions, which also require packaging innovations such as tighter component layout, double-sided mounting, conformal/zoned shielding, high-precision/high-speed SMT, etc. These all require investment in new equipment and processes. Yole believes that the high burden of investment in assembly technology will prompt vendors to outsource more business to OSAT vendors.