The 5G packaging market will grow from $0.52 billion in 2020 to $2.6 billion in 2026, with 31% CAGR, reports Yole Developpement, with the mobile market segment reaching about $4.3 billion in 2026, with 24% CAGR.
Technology trends include:
RFFEMs supporting 5G sub-6 GHz utilize modifications of existing flip-chip laminate-based SiPs with a similar bill of materials: incremental innovation.
5G mmW brings disruptive packaging with the entry of new packaging architectures and platforms: fan-Out WLP and glass substrate interposers competing with advanced organic substrate flip-chip packages with new low-loss dielectrics.
Various packaging solutions based on flip-chip & fan-out technology with different architectures is proposed for integrating antenna elements with RF components for 5G mmW communication.
Key suppliers include Qorvo, Broadcom (Avago), Skyworks and Murata do their assembly internally as well as outsourcing it.
Qualcomm emerged as a serious RF front-end player for 5G solutions, especially 5G mmWave.
As a fabless company, Qualcomm outsources all its SiP assembly, which results in more business opportunities for OSATs. I
“The RF components in the mobile are packaged at two levels,” says Yole’s Santosh Kumar, “The 1st-level packaging of various RF components like filters, switches, and amplifiers at die/wafer level, includes RDL , TSV , and/ or bumping steps. Then the 2nd-level SiP packaging is performed at the SMT level where various components are assembled on SiP substrate along with passives.”
5G packaging includes the RF modules with PAD, DRx FEM, etc. and AiP for 5G sub-6 GHz & 5G mmW connectivity.
5G sub-6 GHz RFFEM accounts for 67% of the total 5G packaging in 2026, followed by 5G mmW FEM, mmW AiP, and mmW discrete antenna.
Almost half of the RFFE revenue per smartphone goes to Qualcomm. However, in the early 2021 5G phones, Qorvo has started the race for second place with some innovative modules that could disrupt the ranking.
The AiP assembly market for mmW communication in mobile will grow by 40% to reach about $448 million in 2026. AiP’s market share in the 5G packaging market will increase from 11% in 2020 to 17% by 2026.
In addition, the 5G packaging substrate market will grow at CAGR ~35% to reach ~$721 million in 2026. Low-loss substrate is essential to support 5G mmWave mobile communication and is required for the mmWave SiP, including AiP & discrete antenna.
According to Yole’s Cédric Malaquin: “With the 5G specification, the number of RF paths has dramatically increased for both the downlink and the uplink. As a result, more dies or a larger one is needed to accommodate 5G signals along with 4G and other radios. As board space saving is key to the smartphone industry, RF Front End tier 1s such as Murata, Skyworks, Qorvo, Broadcom, and Qualcomm, along with OSAT companies, have been even more creative to enable component packing in
The various RF active & passive components in mobile are assembled in the SiP or remain discretes. LTE evolution has led to complex architecture in mobile phones, mainly due to carrier aggregation.
Meanwhile, RF’s board area and available antenna space have been reduced, leading to a densification trend that sees more handset OEM s adopting power amplifier modules and implementing new techniques, i.e., antenna-sharing between LTE and WiFi.
According to Santosh Kumar: “5G added even more complexity requiring more densification in front-end modules to enable 5G sub-6 GHz & mmWave band integration. A single die is cost-efficient for components like tuners or discrete filters. For high-end phones, SiP technology is preferred for performance efficiency”.
Before 2018, LGA SiP was used in the RF industry. 4G LTE in smartphones used multi-die SiP (10-15 dies, utilizing flip-chip balls or Cu pillars or wire-bond to connect various components to the organic coreless substrate) for FEM, as well as for filter banks and diversity receive modules.
aBGA has since been widely adopted thanks to the double-side packaging development. As an example, the recent version of the integrated RF SiP (MB/HB PAMiD) in the iPhone 12 is almost 50% smaller than the first mid/high-band PAMiD. Thanks to innovation, such as EMI shielding, Flip-Chip PA , or Double Side Molding BGA, Broadcom managed to integrate the same system in a smaller footprint.
Double-side BGA packaging technology brings advances in component density with a new type of internal shielding and isolation of critical components using the PCB substrate. Leading companies like Broadcom, Qorvo and Skyworks implement stepwise innovation in RF SiP, moving from LGA to DSBGA to DS-MBGA, whereas Murata directly implemented DS-MBGA for system integration & miniaturization.
RF system integration & miniaturization trends require innovation at various levels for 5G packaging in mobile. RFFEM supporting 5G sub-6 GHz utilize modifications of existing flip-chip laminate-based SiPs with a similar bill of materials: incremental innovation.
On the other hand, 5G mmW brings disruptive packaging with the entry of new packaging architectures and platforms: fan-Out WLP and glass substrate interposers competing with advanced organic substrate flip-chip packages with new low-loss dielectrics.
“Antenna technology and placement is one of the most critical challenges for 5G Semiconductor systems,” says Kumar. “At mmWave frequencies, long paths from semiconductor packages to antennas represent high losses, making it desirable to integrate the antenna into the SiP. Higher frequencies require smaller antennas (mm instead of cm), which, from a footprint point of view, would be easier to integrate into SiPs.”
In this context, various packaging solutions based on flip-chip & fan-out technology with different architectures are proposed for integrating antenna elements with RF components for 5G mobile communication.