IC substrate makers in Apple's iPhone supply chain are aggressively bracing for production of BT-based AiP (antenna in package) substrates expecting a surge in demand for new iPhones in 2021, according to industry sources.
Apple is expected to boost its 5G mmWave smartphone shipment goal for 2021 as the global economy is on track for stable recovery, and its demand for AiP modules supporting mmWave iPhones will grow remarkably this year, the sources said.
In 2020, Apple lowered its 5G mmWave iPhone shipment projections as construction of the corresponding infrastructure in the US and Europe was severely dragged down by the pandemic.
To secure sufficient supply of BT-based AiP substrates this year, Apple is likely to seek new substrate vendors beyond its existing partners Semco, LG Innotek and Kinsus Interconnect Technology, given their limited capacity expansions, the sources said, adding that Taiwan's Unimicron Technology reportedly will join the supply chain.
The high-layer-count requirement for AiP substrates may limit capacity utilization for BT substrate production lines at suppliers, affecting their overall profitability or flexibility in handling orders for other applications, the sources said, adding IC substrate makers usually have not been as aggressive in vying for orders for AiP substrates.
Demand for SiP substrates from Apple is also expected to grow sharply in 2021 to support new battery modules for its new devices, prompting IC substrate makers to convert traditional BT substrate production lines to produce SiP substrates, the sources said.