While 5G and AI will dominate new emerging tech applications to create cash flows for enterprises in the next decade, relevant semiconductor materials and technologies will not only serve as a market enabler but also affect the positions of players in the semiconductor market, according to Tony Huang, deputy director at Digitimes Research.
Huang, speaking at a "5GxAI Trends" seminar held recently in Taipei, said 5G base stations and handsets will rely on higher-end RF front-end modules and power amplifiers to meet requirements for increasingly sophisticated and efficient communication performances, with more-advanced semiconductor materials badly needed to suppor them. Significant upgrades on AI-based edge computing capability are expected to materialize in the next few years to help broaden the scope of AI applications. All this has indicated that semiconductor technologies will become even more important.
Huang said that Moore's Law remains applicable to the advancements seen in handset APs for iPhones and networking chips by Broadcom, while the latest product development roadmaps of leading foundry TSMC and major semiconductor equipment supplier ASML also suggest that IC scaling technology will continue to advance in the next decade, with 2nm node to be available in the near future.
To reduce IC fabrication cost, heterogeneous integration of diverse chipsets via 3D IC, SiP packaging technologies and more-advanced processes will continue to gain ground, according to Huang.
He also noted that the volumes of transceiver filters, RF switches and PA devices needed for 5G handsets will grow exponentially, compared to those for 4G models, and mmWave 5G smartphones also will need more RF devices than sub-6GHz models, stoking demand for AiP (antenna in package) technology that can avert mmWave signal interference.
Third-generation compound semiconductors will be also increasingly applied to 5G base stations, as III-V semiconductor materials, especially GaN, can facilitate construction of transmission systems smaller in size and lower in power consumption and cost, Huang indicated.
The seminar was jointly organized by Monte Jade Science & Technology Association of Taiwan and Digitimes.
At the event, many tech firms also showcased their latest 5G and AI solutions, including Han Tai Technology presenting graphene materials featuring high heat conductivity, Chang Chun Group displaying high-frequency, high-speed copper foil ideal for 5G high-speed communication needs, Xander International exhibiting multi-tasking wireless communication chips modules, Innodisk demonstrating high-end memory solutions for industry control use, Vicor offering 48V power management chips, and Aver Information highlighting smart video conferencing systems, among others.
Digitimes Research deputy director Tong Huang
Photo: Digitimes staff, December 2019