by Ryan Pratt, Founder and CEO, Guerrilla RF
In the coming year, the RF and Microwave industry will see the continuation of an obsolescence trend that started about two years ago. This trend is driven by the bifurcation, or division, of RF and microwave chip suppliers between those who primarily service the smartphone end market and those who focus on other RF and microwave end markets. There are three key forces behind this trend as well as some good news for those bitten by this obsolescence problem.
One of the key things driving this industry bifurcation is that smartphones require products that differ greatly from what other end markets in RF and microwave need. It didn’t start out this way, but as smartphones have become more complex and needed to support ever more frequency bands, this complexity has compounded every year. On top of this, smartphones demand higher levels of integration that don’t bring value to some non-smartphone applications. Pretty soon you end up with products that are only able to be used in smartphones and little else.
Another factor driving this industry division is the high unit volumes associated with smartphone chips. Smartphone chip suppliers must scale up large factories to meet these volume demands. These large factories force chip suppliers to concentrate on keeping their factories fully utilized, which leads other end markets to look unappealing. Also, smartphone chip suppliers must constantly be upgrading the performance of their process technologies to remain competitive. This leads to the discontinuation of older process technologies, resulting in product obsolescence.
A final consideration driving this division in the RF and microwave chip industry is the different support needs of smartphone customers and non-smartphone customers. In any organization with finite resources, the largest dollar opportunities are always going to get the support priority. This means “smaller” (less than $25M/year) customers will have a very hard time getting technical support. Many non-smartphone customers are on their own in terms of technical support.
Now, the good news! As large chip suppliers move towards exclusively serving smartphone end markets, an acute need and opportunity has arisen in the industry for new chip suppliers that service non-smartphone end markets. This is where companies like Guerrilla RF come in! With dedicated Design and Applications engineering teams, these companies can develop and support numerous new products for non-smartphone markets. Also, a fabless semiconductor model allows these companies to offer broad catalogs of RF and microwave components that support many different end markets while offering indefinite product longevity.
As things evolve in the RF and microwave industry, rest assured that new companies are emerging to address the spaces vacated by others. This is part of what makes this industry vibrant and fun to work in! www.guerrilla-rf.com