Viewpoint - Santosh Kumar and Cédric Malaquin
February 21, 2020

VIEWPOINT 2020: Santosh Kumar, Principal Analyst and Director Packaging, Assembly & Substrates and Cédric Malaquin, Technology & Market Analyst, Yole Développement



VIEWPOINT 2020: Santosh Kumar, Principal Analyst and Director Packaging, Assembly & Substrates and Cédric Malaquin, Technology & Market Analyst, Yole Développement
Santosh Kumar, Principal Analyst and Director Packaging, Assembly & Substrates, Yole Korea
VIEWPOINT 2020: Santosh Kumar, Principal Analyst and Director Packaging, Assembly & Substrates and Cédric Malaquin, Technology & Market Analyst, Yole Développement
Cédric Malaquin, Technology & Market Analyst
Multiple breakthrough technologies have shaken up the RF industry in 2019. Just to name a few in the consumer market, we have seen the introduction of 5G in mobile devices, the resurrection of Ultra-Wide Band technology through the Apple iPhone 11 and the impressive Soli's gesture control radar finally coming to life in the Google Pixel 4. In all cases, the packaging industry has been a key enabler in delivering technologies, such as antenna in package, needed to comply with small form factors.

In its 2019 market report collection*, Yole Développement projected the nascent 5G RF Front-End market to reach $1.5B in 2020, of the $18.5B overall RF Front-End and connectivity mobile phone market, while the wireless infrastructure RF Front End market is expected to exceed $2B. In the automotive market segment, radar along with connectivity, GNSS and V2X have been forecast to be worth $8B in 2020 at the module level.

For the RF Front end module assembly packaging / assembly, 5G requires package innovation as it creates the business opportunity. Mobile devices create more challenges for RF FEM packaging due to, on one hand, increasing the number of RF components to support 5G bands, while on the other hand constraining the form factor.

5G includes the sub 6 Ghz and mmWave bands (as defined in 3GPP release 15). 5G sub 6 GHz products are expected to use modifications of existing Flip Chip SiPs (i.e. double-sided FC package substrate) with a similar bill of materials – with incremental innovation such as even closer placement of components, double sided mounting, conformal / compartmental shielding, high accuracy & high speed SMT, etc. 5G mmWave frequencies bring disruptive packaging with the entrance of new architectures, Fan-Out WLP and Glass substrate interposers competing with advanced organic substrate Flip Chip packages with new low loss dielectrics. Antenna technology and placement is one of the most critical challenges of 5G semiconductor systems.

5G mmWave requires the antenna to be integrated in the package. Various packaging solutions are proposed for integrating antenna element with RF chip for 5G mmWave: flip-chip (substrate based), fan-out (RDL based) and PoP (package on package). In terms of architecture, antenna will be placed side by side with or on the opposite side of RF chip.

For PoP type, the main antenna component is fabricated separately and integrated with RF chip on the package. For the other two, the antenna is fabricated in package substrate/RDL and RF chip assembled in the same package. The substrate material can be organic laminate, ceramic or glass. Fan-out WLP/PLP is a promising solution for AiP integration because of high signal performance, low-loss and reduced form factor.

However, it requires double side RDL and only a few top OSATs and TSMC are involved in it. The RF front end SiP supply chain for 4G is led by a few IDMs, such as Qorvo, Broadcom (Avago), Skyworks and Murata, who outsource part of SiP assembly to OSATs. However, fabless players, such as Qualcomm, Mediatek, HiSilicon etc., have emerged as strong players for the 5G RF chipsets and front-end modules. Being fabless, these players outsource all of the SiP assembly, which will result in more business opportunity for OSATs.

Also, IDMs are focusing more on RF front end solutions for 5G sub 6Ghz which also require innovation in packaging. According to upcoming Yole SiP 2020 report, buoyed by the strong 5G adoption, the RFFEM packaging market is expected to grow at 10% CAGR from $1.8B in 2019 to ~$3.2B in 2025.

Santosh Kumar and Cédric Malaquin
Yole Développement
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