Gallium nitride to drive growth of pulsed RF power semiconductor device markets to exceed $250M by 2018

Markets for pulsed RF power devices up to 18 GHz are expected to show continued solid growth over the next five years despite the current economic turmoil and cuts in defense spending. While the volatility of many global electronics markets is fueled by their association with consumer spending, markets for pulsed RF power devices are supported by quite different priorities.

“Many RF power semiconductor manufacturers are on a quest to find markets unrelated to mobile wireless infrastructure,” notes ABI Research director Lance Wilson. “Device prices in wireless infrastructure are falling, and the total available market is shrinking.”

Some markets that use pulsed RF power devices, such as transportation safety and the military, are seeing good solid growth even in the midst of today’s economic downturn. These devices are used in radars for military, weather and marine applications, and in the current worldwide upgrade of the air traffic control system. There is also a market segment devoted to the avionics transponder and air navigation market, which is also lifted by the 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; however, some factors may complicate their efforts. Pulsed RF power device markets are becoming very competitive technologically: gallium nitride and silicon carbide devices are vying for market share along with the more established silicon based technologies. And so many companies are rushing into these markets that there probably won’t be the market size to support them all. “Undoubtedly some consolidation will occur. While not guaranteed success, those companies that have a track record working with government agencies and defense contractors are going to have an advantage over those that are new entrants,” adds Wilson.

A new ABI Research study, “Pulsed RF Power Semiconductors” forecasts the worldwide market for devices that have greater than 5 watts of peak output power and frequencies of operation up to 18 GHz. It examines the avionics, Sub-1 GHz, L-Band, S-Band, C-Band, X-Band and Ku-Band radar markets, and contains forecasts through 2018.

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