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RF Power Amplifier Market Analysis

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Handset Power Amplifier Industry Background – February 6, 2005 Chips that enable mobile telephone handsets fall into four broad categories: (1) radio frequency (power amplifiers, transceivers, and switches); (2) baseband (digital and analog); (3) power management; and (4) memory. The Power Amplifier (PA) enables the handset to transmit digitally encoded voice and data signals back to the base station tower to route a call to another phone number or Internet address. PA’s are often the most critical radio frequency component in the phone because they normally use the greatest amount of battery power in a handset and they generally dissipate the greatest amount of heat.

 

Current suppliers of PA’s include RF Micro Devices, Skyworks, Renesas, TriQuint, Anadigics, Freescale, and Philips. RF Micro Devices, Skyworks, and Renesas comprise approximately 80% share of the power amplifier market. RF Micro Devices’ customers include Nokia and the other top 6 OEM’s (Nokia, Motorola, Samsung, Siemens, LG, and Sony Ericsson) as well as NEC, TCL, Kyocera, and others. Skyworks’ customers include the top 6 OEM’s as well as TCL and Sanyo. Renesas is a second source to RF Micro Devices at Nokia and also supplies Motorola, Siemens, and Samsung, NEC, Panasonic, Sharp, and Toshiba.

 

Initially, the PA was a discrete single function transistor manufactured in a SOT-89 package or a multi-chip module. All PA’s in the first generation of mobile handsets were fabricated using silicon MOSFET technologies. As the market moved from analog (AMPS/TACS) to digital (GSM/TDMA/CDMA), the silicon MOSFET gave way to emerging GaAs MESFET technology, which was packaged in SO-16/24 IC packages using single chip GaAs. GaAs MESFET became obsolete due to GaAs HBT in the most recent transition, still using single chip GaAs. The requirements of power control, switching technology, and higher levels of integration led to the emergence of PA modules over the last few years.

 

Advancements in semiconductor technologies have enabled a new breed of power amplifier solutions that ultimately offer the consumer longer talk and standby time on handsets. For example, Silicon Labs announced on February 9, 2004 a single chip silicon CMOS RF power amplifier solution which they believe will set a new standard. Texas Instruments announced on January 24, 2005 the sampling of its integrated Digital RF Processor (DRP) and the plans by Nokia to incorporate this solution into upcoming phones. TI’s offering is the industry’s first solution to integrate the majority of a cell phone’s primary functional blocks, including the baseband DSP processor, a CMOS radio (transceiver), power management, the analog baseband, and SRAM.