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Mobile Device RF Front-End TAM Analysis and Forecast

N. Quinn Bolton, CFA Needham & Company, LLC, 445 Park Avenue, 3rd Floor, New York, NY 10022 Email: [email protected] ABSTRACT With user demand for mobile broadband services and international roaming increasing, wireless communications devices (handsets and data modems) are facing the challenge of supporting not only multiple air interface technologies (multi-mode) but also a growing number of frequency bands (multi-band). With each frequency band for each air interface requiring its own transmit and receive signal chain, RF front-end dollar content increases with the number of air interfaces and frequency bands supported by a device. We believe the growing RF content in wireless communications devices is a secular trend, especially considering the deployment of high-speed HSPA and LTE networks, and will drive significant growth in the RF front-end component TAM. Driven by robust demand for mobile communications in emerging markets and for mobile broadband data in developed countries, Needham forecasts cellular handset shipments to grow at a 7.4% unit CAGR between 2009 and 2014. We forecast 35% unit growth in data modems used to provide mobile broadband access in a number of applications including notebooks, netbooks, ereaders, automobiles and machine-to-machine applications. In aggregate, we forecast mobile device unit shipments to increase from 1.34 billion in 2009 to 2.16 billion in 2014, or at a 10% CAGR. In 2009, we estimate only 31% of mobile devices supported 3G air interfaces. Driven by increased demand for data services such as email, web browsing, social networking and third-party applications, we forecast 3G multi-mode, multi-band phones will represent 66% of mobile device shipments by 2014. Led by demand for smartphones, this transition to 3G multi-mode devices is driving an increase in the number of air interfaces (modes) and frequency bands per mobile device. Typically, each frequency band supported by a mobile device requires its own transmit and receive signal chain. As such, the number and dollar content of RF front-end components, which include power amplifiers, transmit and receive filters, duplexers, antenna switches and bias control and matching circuitry, multiplies with each additional frequency band supported by a mobile device. Based on our forecast for mobile device unit shipments to grow at a 10% CAGR from 2009 to 2014 and the increasing mix toward more complex multi-band, multi-mode mobile devices, we forecast the total market for RF front-end components in mobile devices to grow from $2.74 billion in 2009 to $5.42 billion in 2014, or at a 15% CAGR. With RF front-end complexity increasing, we expect the industry to increasingly look for module solutions. By integrating multiple RF components into a single package, module solutions simplify RF frontend design, reduce the board space required for the RF front-end and accelerate time to market. The increasing complexity in RF front-end design is also driving development of multi-mode, multi-band (MMMB) and converged power amplifier architectures that allow the transmit chain for multiple bands and modes to be routed through a single device.

Biography Quinn Bolton joined Needham & Company in 2004. Prior to Needham, he was a senior semiconductor analyst at Oppenheimer & Co., covering large capitalization, diversified semiconductor companies. Before joining Oppenheimer, Quinn was a senior analyst at CIBC World Markets, where he covered large capitalization semiconductor, personal computer device and communication IC companies. Prior to at CIBC, he was a research associate at BT Alex. Brown and held various positions in corporate finance, equity capital markets, and equity research at Salomon Brothers. He received undergraduate degrees in Electrical Engineering and Quantitative Economics from Stanford University in 1993 and is a CFA charter holder.


Mobile Device RF Front-End TAM Analysis and Forecast

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