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Reflections on the changing situation of filter industry

Release date:2021-12-28Author source:KinghelmViews:434

Filter is the top priority of RF front-end industry, but it is not the leader.


In the next five years, the leader of RF front-end industry will be 5g PA module.


Passive follow active, passive follow active。 The filter will follow 5g PA module and Rx FEM.


However, with the advent of 5g, the biggest beneficiary of RF front-end industry will be filters. The output value of filters has increased from 33% of 3G terminals to 54% of all Netcom LTE terminals, and is expected to increase to 66% by 2023; Saw is the most important filter in 4G and 5g era. At present, 70% - 80% of the market is saw filter, and 20% - 30% of the market is BAW filter and LTCC / IPD; 5g superimposes more frequency bands, and the number of filters and high-end requirements are higher. In the 5g era, the number of filters will not only increase significantly, but also be further integrated and miniaturized.


Filter existing pattern

American and Japanese giants monopolize the RF front-end market and occupy most of the high profit market. According to yole development data, in 2019, the top five RF device providers accounted for 79% of the RF front-end market share, including Murata 23%, skyworks 18%, Broadcom 14%, qorvo 13% and Qualcomm 11%.

Source: yole, China Semiconductor Industry Association


The top five RF manufacturers have power amplifiers and filters. The filters of the head manufacturers are in IDM mode, and the power amplifiers of skyworks and qorvo are in IDM mode, with high integration RF front-end module design capability. The advantage of Japanese enterprises lies in tc-saw filter, while American enterprises have obvious advantages in BAW filter, PA, switch and LNA markets.

Source: yole, China Semiconductor Industry Association


The formation of the competition pattern of the global RF front-end segment market is a process of M & ARF PA companies do filters not from scratch, but through mergers and acquisitions.


After the merger and reorganization of Broadcom and anhuagao in 2015, one company dominated, accounting for 87% of the global BAW filter market share. At present, Broadcom has the most competitive product portfolio, and its BAW filter also occupies a dominant position in the high-end Smartphone Application market. In addition, Broadcom also acquired Infineon's bulk acoustic wave business to expand the market share of bulk acoustic wave filters.


Qorvo was merged by TriQuint semiconductor and RF micro devices (RFMD) in 2015. TriQuint and RFMD both increased the filter capacity through mergers and acquisitions. TriQuint merged with sawtek in 2001, and acquired tfrt technologies, which specializes in BAW technology, in 2004 to strengthen its RF filter technology capability through continuous acquisition of qorvo.


In 2014, American analog chip manufacturersSkyworksAndPanasonicAnnounced the establishment of a joint venture to jointly design, develop and provide high-performance filters, including surface acoustic wave (SAW) and temperature compensation saw component solutions, and jointly enter the high-performance filter market. The strategic investments of both parties in the high frequency bulk acoustic wave (BAW) filter Market complement each other, and can provide customized solutions for the combination of high, medium and low frequency bands. Among them,Skyworks66% of the shares,PanasonicAccounting for 34%, the headquarters of the joint venture is located in Osaka, Japan. In 2016, skyworks announced that it would acquire 34% equity of Panasonic under the joint venture company for us $765 million to achieve a wholly-owned holding, including professional and technical personnel related to filters, leading product design, 412 basic patents of filters and application patents related to saw and temperature compensation SAW devices.


2016high passAnd Japanese electronic component manufacturersTDKIt was announced that the two sides would form a joint venture rf360 holdings to develop wireless components for mobile devices and other products. Therefore, Qualcomm invested US $3 billion in a joint venture with TDK to officially enter the filter market.

BAWwave filter


SAWwave filter

Switch and LNA

Broadcom: 87%





Qorvo:      25%


Skyworks:     23%

Solar induced electricity: 3%

Broadcom: 25%

Solar induced electricity: 15%

Others: 26%


Others: 7%

Skyworks:     10%


Future changes of filter

From the perspective of market scale: under the general trend of Internet of things, RF front-end is the fastest growing and most determined direction. At present, it is in the period of accelerated penetration of 5g mobile phones, and the new round of high-speed growth trend of RF front-end industry is clear. According to yole's data, the RF front-end market will reach US $15.2 billion in 2019, is expected to reach US $25.4 billion by 2025, and CAGR will reach 11% in 2020-25.

Source: yole


From the perspective of market composition: PA module, discrete filter and FEM module account for a high proportion. The RF front end includes filter, switch, power amplifier (PA), low noise amplifier (LNA), antenna tuner and other components. According to yole data, the scale of PA module, discrete filter and FEM module in 19 years was USD 5.4 billion, USD 3.7 billion and USD 2.6 billion respectively, accounting for 35%, 24% and 17%; It is estimated that by 2025, the market scale will increase to USD 8.9 billion, USD 4.2 billion and USD 4.6 billion, with CAGR of 11%, 4% and 13% respectively.


The RF front-end in 5g era will be mainly modular products. It is expected that the proportion of FEM modules will increase to 18% and the proportion of discrete filters will decrease to 17% in 2025.

Proportion of RF front end market in 2019

Source: yole

 Forecast of market share of RF front end in 2025

Source: yole


It can be seen from the above data that the market scale of discrete filters has increased from US $3.7 billion in 2019 to US $4.2 billion in 2025, but the proportion of RF front-end has decreased from 24.2% in 2019 to 17% in 2025. Looking at another set of data, the proportion of the global output value of filters in RF front-end devices increased from 54% in 2017 to 66% in 2023. In 2020, the global output value of filters will be about 12 billion US dollars.

Filters accounted for 54% in 2017


The proportion of filters will increase to 66% in 2023

Source: qorvo


What kind of phenomenon is this, which leads to two very different data statistical results of the filter.


Great changes have taken place in the filter market, and a new pattern will appear in the filter industry in the future. This change will change from two aspects:

oneThe customer structure has changed

In the past, the largest direct customer of the filter was smart phone company, and in the future, the largest direct customer of the filter is mobile phone PA module company or RX FEM company. Therefore, the top three customer groups of the filter will become:

(1) Mobile PA module company

(2) RX FEM

(3) Smart phone company


twoThe filter product type has changed

5g has more and higher requirements for filters, and tc-saw and BAW will have more and more requirements.


Saw technology can be used to integrate filters and duplexers in different frequency bands on a single chip, and requires little or no additional process steps. However, saw filter has limitations. When it is higher than about 1GHz, its selectivity decreases; At about 2.5GHz, saw filter reaches the limit frequency.


SAW devices are sensitive to temperature changes, and their performance decreases with the increase of temperature. When the operating frequency exceeds 1.5GHz, the Q value of saw begins to decrease. When the temperature increases, the stiffness of substrate materials tends to decrease and the sound velocity also decreases. Therefore, tc-saw filter is needed to improve the heat dissipation and Q value stability of SAW filter.


The highest frequency of BAW filter can reach 20GHz, and its size decreases with the increase of frequency, which makes it very suitable for very demanding 3G and 4G applications. In addition, even in high bandwidth design, BAW filter is not sensitive to temperature change. At the same time, it also has very low loss and very steep filter skirt.




Performance below 2GHz is equivalent to BAW; The cost is much lower than BAW; The performance of tc-saw is expected to be equal to that of BAW.

High frequency filter loss above 3.5GHz; The overall power capacity is lower than BAW; Limited on special high power.


Power capacity higher than saw; Better high frequency characteristics.

High manufacturing cost; Patents are concentrated in two companies, which is very difficult to break through.


Where will the filter enterprise go

5g changes the world, 5g changes the RF front end.


More filters will be integrated in 5g PA module and receiving module (Rx FEM). In fact, the modularization of RF front-end began in 2016, and duplexers, antenna switches and other devices began to be integrated into RF front-end modules. Module schemes include ASM, femid, pamid, etc. At present, pamid is the most modular, which mainly integrates multi-mode and multi frequency PA, RF switch, filter and other components.


According to different integration modes, the RF link of the main collector antenna can be divided into: femid (integrated RF switch, filter and duplexer), pamid (integrated multi-mode multi band PA and femid), lpamid (LNA, integrated multi-mode multi band PA and femid). Diversity antenna RF links can be divided into: diffem (integrated RF switch and filter), lfem (integrated RF switch, low noise amplifier and filter), etc.


Therefore, with the integration of a large number of filters, the changing situation of the filter industry has triggered three thoughts:

oneProduct trend of filter enterprises

Murata, as the world's largest SAW filter manufacturer, will continue to adhere to the saw filter route. The IHP SAW filter first launched by Murata has a maximum applicable frequency of 3.5GHz, which can be equivalent to the high-frequency performance of conventional BAW filter. But Murata is also making some PA modules and Rx FEM. Will FEM become Murata's main product direction? We need to wait and see.


Broadcom focuses on BAW and FBAR filters, and it is estimated that it will not involve SAW filters. Broadcom does pamid, but it has not heard of Rx FEM. 

Skyworks, one of the world's largest FEM providers, has a force in saw and BAW filters. In 2020, skyworks delivered more than 150 million modules supporting bulk acoustic wave (BAW) filters for 5g mobile solutions. For 5g, skyworks is committed to developing bulk acoustic wave BAW technology, including design team, wafer factory and proprietary IP.


Qorvo, using its advanced filter technology, such as nodrivt ™ And lowdrift ™ BAW / saw to help solve the most complex interference problems in the industry. Qorvo is dominated by BAW filter and supplemented by saw; It is also one of the largest FEM suppliers.


High pass (RF 360), filter products include bulk acoustic wave (BAW), surface acoustic wave (SAW), temperature compensated surface acoustic wave (tc-saw) and thin film surface acoustic wave (thin film saw). At the same time, we also develop and provide FEM products.


twoGlobal distribution of filter capacity

The filter capacity is highly concentrated in Japanese and American enterprises.


The main suppliers of SAW filters are Murata, rf360, skyworks and solar induced power, and their production capacity is in Japan.


BAW filter is mainly monopolized by Broadcom and qorvo. Production capacity is concentrated in the United States.


There are two SAW filter manufacturers in Korea, wisol and SAWNICS, with small production capacity and small market share. These two companies are also doing RX FEM.


There are also several smaller SAW filter manufacturers in Taiwan, which are not concerned by the industry due to limited production capacity and product performance.


Chinese mainland has sprung up a group of filter design and manufacturing enterprises, such as 26 electronics, CLP, and mcctech. There is a big gap between these enterprises and foreign IDM manufacturers in technology and supporting industries, and they are still in the early stage of development. According to the prediction of Zhiyan consulting, the output of SAW filter in China will only be RMB 800 million in 2020.


threeWhere will the filter enterprise go

Where should filter enterprises go? RF PA company is not only making PA module, but also making RX FEM; RF switch companies have also turned to FEM. For example, Zhuo Shengwei is no longer a switch company, but an FEM company.


RF PA module and Rx FEM have become the largest application and market of filters. Should filter enterprises do FEM? Will Murata become the largest RX FEM provider? In Rx FEM, filter is the technical key and bottleneck. Murata can provide almost all the filters required by RX FEM, but it will not be a problem in the research and development of switch and LNA. Therefore, Murata can make RX FEM unobstructed.


For Murata, this is a question of company positioning and product positioning. Does Murata want to be a filter company or a FEM company? Is the main filter, along with selling FEM; Or do we mainly do FEM and sell filters?


For skyworks, qorvo and Qualcomm rf360, there is no such confusion. It must be mainly doing FEM and selling filters.



In the next decade, cooperation and competition will be the norm of RF front-end industry. PA company buys filters to make PA modules, switch / LNA company buys filters to make RX FEM, and filter company buys switches / LNA to make RX FEM, forming a mixed relationship of cooperation and competition. In the end, whether the filter company makes the switch / LNA, the switch / LNA company makes the filter, or the PA company makes the filter is a dynamic development process, and everything is unknown in the future.


No matter how to do it, a company must have a strong body, which is either PA, filter, or switch / LNA.Without a strong subject, there will be nothing in the end.

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