RF Semis Update – The More Things Change….

Last week I posted on overview of the RF semis market. I wrote that I expected some big announcements in the space during MWC. I was sadly disappointed. Nothing much happened.

Probably the most interesting product announcement came from Peregrine (bias warning). They launched their first integrated RF front-end with power amplifiers, support for over a dozen bands, all just using a tiny number off passive, off-board components. This is great stuff, with impressive performance. Shipping later this year. They announced the technology last year, and they have made a lot of progress in the past twelve months, making this a real product.

By contrast, Qorvo and Skyworks announced modifications of their existing products – RF Fusion (and RF Flex) and SkyOne, respectively. These are some very sophisticated pieces of engineering, but they are they apex of the old way of doing things. Peregrine is showing a new, better approach, but these companies seem to be doing the same old things. They will make lots of money this year selling those, but the future is very unclear.

Avago did not have a noticeable presence on the floor. The reports are that they are fully booked for all of their capacity into 2016. Nice position to have. But no new products.

I also met with Resonant. They have a very bold vision for their filter technology. It looks very impressive. I plan to go visit them soon and learn a bit more. Nonetheless, the biggest question I have is will they be able to commercialize this soon enough. Building a product is hard, but so is building a company.

And finally, there was Qualcomm. At their analyst Q&A session with management, they told us that they had “learned a hell of a lot” about RF. They said that several times, a lot of learning go on. They also admitted that they are “two years into a five year plan for RF”. They have not mentioned that timing before, and it certainly puts RF 360 into perspective, a very long-term perspective.

In the end, I was mostly underwhelmed by the industry this year. RF semis was not really one of those places that I saw substance (Peregrine excepted). I never said the industry was going to change overnight, and change is coming. The current path will not continue forever, nothing in semiconductors or technology can stand still.

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