GaN for Wireless Basestations: Good for the Bottom Line, Good for the Environment

Nov. 15, 2016

BTS_MACOM.jpg (Mobile Phone Tower Against Blue Sky)Much has been written about the skyrocketing global demand for high-speed mobile/remote broadband access, and the proliferation of wireless basestations needed to support it. For an eye-opening reminder of the growth rates, refer to China Mobile, the world’s largest mobile operator, which operated 720,000 4G/LTE basestations at the end of 2014. By June 2016 – only a year and a half later – that number nearly doubled to 1.3 million. During this same time period, the number of China Mobile’s 4G/LTE customers swelled from 90 million to 428.5 million1,2.

The staggering growth in wireless demand represents a tremendous revenue opportunity for wireless network operators, but supplying electricity to millions of basestations isn’t cheap. Experts have estimated that wireless networks account for approximately 60 billion kilowatt hours of energy consumption, 60 to 80% of which is consumed by basestations3,4. That’s a massive electricity bill.

The environmental burden is similarly daunting. Gartner has estimated that the global information and communications technology (ICT) industry accounts for 2% of global CO2 emissions, and the Global e-Sustainability Initiative has estimated that the wireless industry could account for more than 50% of ICT energy-related emissions by 20205,6. In the fight against global warming, these statistics are cause for concern.

It’s no wonder then that wireless operators are keen to embrace technology innovations that improve the energy efficiency of their basestations. And it’s for this reason, among others, that MACOM GaN on Si technology has emerged as the logical successor to legacy LDMOS for basestation power amplifiers.


MACOM GaN on Si can provide a 10% efficiency improvement compared to LDMOS, combined with numerous performance advantages, while providing a path to better than LDMOS and far better than GaN on SiC cost structures at scaled volume production levels. Properly exploited, this 10% efficiency advantage can make a profound impact on wireless network operators’ basestation operating expenses. MACOM estimates that the utility bill savings of switching only new macro base stations deployed in a year to MACOM GaN on Si can exceed $100M when modeled with an average energy rate of $0.1/KWh7.

The energy efficiency gains achieved by switching from LDMOS to MACOM GaN on Si-based power amplifiers will have a similarly meaningful impact on C02 emissions, and this is something that everyone – from wireless operators to customers alike – should be heartened by.

MACOM’s MAGb series of power transistors, unveiled earlier this year at Mobile World Congress, harness the proven energy efficiency benefits of MACOM GaN on Si to enable a price/performance breakthrough that can’t be achieved with alternative semiconductor technologies. Whether you measure these efficiency benefits in economic or environmental terms, the mainstream market arrival of GaN-based PAs for wireless basestations signals a transformative technology evolution.

For more information about the benefits of MACOM GaN on Si for wireless basestations, click here.


All financial guidance projections referenced in this post were made as of the publication date or another historical date noted herein, and any references to such projections herein are not intended to reaffirm them as of any later date. MACOM undertakes no obligation to update any forward-looking statement or projection at any future date. This post may include information and projections derived from third-party sources concerning addressable market size and growth rates and similar general economic or industry data. MACOM has not independently verified any information and projections from third party sources incorporated herein. This post may also contain market statistics and industry data that are subject to uncertainty and are not necessarily reflective of market conditions. Although MACOM believes that these statistics and data are reasonable, they have been derived from third party sources and have not been independently verified by MACOM.