5G Smartphones Create Big Demand for Passive Components

5G Smartphones Create Big Demand for Passive Components

The entire electronics industry is eyeing the implementation of 5G standards for new opportunities and growth. This next mobile communication technology is expected to improve the overall speed and efficiency of communicating information between devices and networks, IoT, autonomous driving and M2M performances. Out of these potential technological advancements that utilize 5G standards, mobile handsets are likely the primary device to affect users’ day-to-day lives.

One highly possible core component for 5G networks is the Massive MIMO technology. MIMO, also known as Multiple Input Multiple Output, is “an antenna technology for wireless communications in which multiple antennas are used at both the source (transmitter) and the destination (receiver)”. Massive MIMO refers to a MIMO system with a large number of antennas, usually consisting of a system with antennas greater than 8x8 (8 transmitter and 8 receiver antennas). Base stations for 4G typically use a small number of antennas, ranging from 4 to 16 units. However, with the upcoming 5G era, the base station will use an antenna array, which could carry 128 to 256 antennas. By 2021, MIMO installations are expected to grow to approximately 9 million.

To accommodate and connect with the MIMO system, the Radio Frequency Front-End (RFFE) subsystem and antenna in the smartphone are also expected to change. A 4G smartphone uses 1 transmitting antenna module and 2 receiving antenna modules. For an iPhone X, the total value of the RFFE module is around $16.6. A 5G-ready smartphone, however, needs to support at least 2 new frequencies of n77 and n79, which require additional receiving and transmitting modules. This may increase the total value of a 5G-ready smartphone by 60-100%. The addition of these models could result in increased demand for electronic components in 5G smartphones. For example, the Broadcom AFEM 8050 module contains at least 2 power amplifiers, 12 bulk acoustic wave filters, 2 toggle switches, and 10 inductors. Each 5G smartphone carrying this module will require at least 2-3 more Pas, 10 to 15 more BAW filters and 30 to 45 inductors. An iPhone X has 4 antennas to support current 4G communication, however, Qorvo estimates a typical 5G smartphone will carry 7 to 8 antennas to satisfy network requirements.

In addition to its core components, 5G smartphones will also drive the demand for passive electronic components, such as MLCCs. The average number of MLCCs in a 4G smartphone is between 550 to 900. For 5G smartphones, this number is expected to reach more than 1000 MLCCs in each device. Additionally, the sophisticated 5G base station, combined with a MIMO system, will require more passive components as well.

The widespread passive component shortage in 2018 has created many challenges for OEM and EMS companies. With the development and implementation of 5G technology in smartphones, it is highly likely we will see another wave of component shortages soon. Advanced MP Technology is a valuable resource for any supply chain professional to overcome any market challenge with its many solutions including shortage mitigation and cost reduction services. During the recent ongoing passive component shortages, Advanced MP Technology was able to effectively assist manufacturers in mitigating shortages by aligning itself with major global suppliers. Our reliable resources place us in an excellent position to proactively react to potential component shortages foreseen by the emergence of new 5G technology.