A Look Ahead at the Trends Shaping the RF Semiconductor Industry

Mar. 26, 2019

2019 rf small.jpg2019 has begun amidst a wave of rousing activity. A strong global economy is driving new activity and demand across the RF industry, resulting in renewed innovation and revitalized programs. The promise of 5G lurks right around the corner, and the industry has its hands full with standards continuing to evolve, new applications being realized and everyone considering what their role will be in this emerging network. In an industry renowned for its long technology lifecycles yet relentless innovation, what can one realistically expect to see happen in the coming year?

A Robust Economy

Against the backdrop of geo-political factors and trade tensions, today’s global economy remains very healthy, and is driving a broad-based increase in overall market demand. For example, the proliferation of the Internet on the move and in rural areas is driving an increased need for devices operating at Ku- and Ka-bands, and VSAT and SATCOM are seeing significant growth as a result. The emergence of millimeterwave bands in 5G telecom is driving the need for more test and measurement instrumentation, and in conjunction, there is an increase in the manufacturing of wireless equipment due to an increase in demand for RF power devices. Simply put, the overall health of the economy is driving end product demand, which is driving the demand for manufacturing equipment, which in turn drives the demand for semiconductor components.

5G Networks Driving Demand

The exciting rollout of 5G networks and move to Massive MIMO antenna configurations is expected to create an up to 10x increase in the demand for RF products to support basestations, driving the proliferation of transmit components, switches, LNAs and other RF components for the RF industry. The FCC recently announced the conclusion of America’s first 5G spectrum auction for 28 GHz, followed by the 24 GHz auction in March, and is expected to auction three additional spectrum bands in 2019. With the networking OEMs rolling out these spectrums, we are already seeing the first large scale deployment of millimeterwave commercial products, outside of past VSAT and Point-to-Point communication deployments. This is driving the performance and cost structure of millimeterwave components dramatically.

Aerospace & Defense

Following increases to the Defense budget, 2018 saw the start of many new A&D programs in addition to programs for refurbishing existing equipment being deployed in the field today. With the increased demand in legacy products for these modernization efforts, along with the demand for new Commercial off the Shelf solutions (COTS) as well as custom designs, it is expected the defense market will continue to be fairly robust over the next few years.

Looking Forward

This flurry of activity will likely continue to increase as we move throughout 2019, reinforced by growing demand and a thriving economy. While arduous to predict which activities will come to fruition and which will continue to build out over the coming years, one thing is certain: 2019 will be progressive, and a year for the RF industry to remember.


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.