As seen from the market, components of power semiconductors are mostly used in industrial fields, including motor control, rail transit, wireless power supply, energy control, and smart grid, which occupy more than 30% in the long run that is expected to arrive at 35% in 2021, followed by automotive applications at 29% that will gradually expand the automotive and high voltage MOSFET markets alongside the development of NEVs and EVs. In addition, consumer electronics also account for 18% of the elevated demand for notebooks, smartphones, wearable, and quick chargers. Communication and computing each take up 10% and 7%.
Demand for Consumer Electronics Applications: Quick Charging
The faster transmission of 5G smartphones compared to that of 4G requires additional radio frequency components, thus an increase in power consumption and the speed of battery drainage becomes inevitable. Brands have been releasing USB-PD quick charging products that are currently most adopted with Type-C under the rising requirements of consumers in charging efficiency, and a support of transmission voltage from higher specifications will require an integration with synchronous rectification MOSFET that is essential in adjusting optimization, as well as an increase in the quantity of MOSFET. In terms of materials, small chargers of high power density are steadily becoming market mainstream amidst the development and popularization of GaN technology, as well as the ever-changing market of USB Type-C PD chargers, and GaN that has a low calorific value and small dimension has become the optimal material for MOSFET pertaining to quick charging.
Demand for Communication Applications: 5G Base Station
5G base stations, adopted with the Massive MIMO technology, and require multi-channel architectures such as 32 channels (32T32R) and 64 channels (64T64R), are the core equipment of 5G network, and an increase in channel density will also lead to an increment in power consumption and cost for 5G base stations at the same time. 5G base stations consume double the power than 4G, while the demand for lowering power consumption has risen the demand for low depletion and high thermostability. In addition, the establishment of 5G network has elevated the scale of data centers and cloud services, while the installation of servers has also stimulated the demand for power management modules such as AC/DC converters and DC/DC converters. Hence, communication MOSFET is now one of the major demands.
Demand for Automotive Applications: NEV
The transition of the existing automotive industry that marches from traditional fossil fuel vehicles to NEVs requires extra power semiconductor components such as MOSFET to operate synergistically. For traditional fossil fuel vehicles, various power supply components are powered by the battery, which usually comes in either 24V or 12V. The voltage for the power battery of NEVs is usually 336V or 384V and can go up to 580-600V for large electric passenger cars, which is why power semiconductor components are necessary between high and low voltage systems of NEVs to implement voltage adjustments and achieve flowing of current between two systems that allow each electronic component to function.
The electronic components that complement the battery system of a NEV operate at different voltage levels, so voltage conversion is required as electric power moves through different components. As a MOSFET continuously switches, it gradually raises or lowers the voltage. Hence, the important considerations in MOSFET designs include current strength and withstand voltage. Additionally, different applications have their own design needs with respect to switching frequency, switching noise, oscillation damping, and DPM.
As the number of electronic components in a car increases, the number of automotive applications grows for power semiconductor components such as MOSFETs. Originally, a car with a traditional ICE has at least 90 MOSFET chips. As for NEVs, the number of MOSFET chips per vehicle is usually around 200 but can reach up to around 400 for high-end models. With more functions and features being added into a NEV, the chip number is expected to rise further in the future.
Demand for Industrial Applications: Automation and Charging Piles for NEVs
The industrial segment of the market for power semiconductor components has the widest range of applications. Most kinds of industrial equipment contain MOSFETs. At the same time, many manufacturing and processing sectors are adopting automation technologies in order to shorten process cycle time, reduce production costs, and minimize equipment idling. Besides the ongoing trend toward Industry 4.0, the shock of the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the progress in industrial automation during recent years because manufacturers have been compelled to find ways to keep their production lines running with limited manpower.
Compared with traditional Si-based MOSFETs and IGBTs, SiC-based MOSFETs have significant advantages in the industrial segment of the power semiconductor market because they are able to withstand higher voltages, perform faster switching, and offer lower on-resistance. Furthermore, the adoption of SiC can contribute to a reduction in power consumption and a more compact system. Hence, SiC-based solutions have become the focus of product development for power component suppliers.
Regarding charging piles for NEVs, these are considered industrial equipment and therefore have to conform to the certifications of the major industry bodies. Playing a key role in the proliferation of NEVs, charging piles are being developed to provide a shorter charging period as well as higher-power charging in different scenarios. In this application field, power semiconductor components are essential to electric power conversion. Electromechanical devices including AC/DC converter and DC/DC converter are the key parts of a charging pile because they perform voltage and frequency conversions. Due to the demand for an ever shorter charging period, power components have to achieve a higher standard in terms of withstand voltage. Hence, SiC-based MOSFETs are trickling into the charging pile market as component suppliers develop solutions that minimize both thermal resistance and switching loss that occurs during high-frequency switching.
Chinese and European suppliers of base station equipment are expected to once again account for a global market share of more than 70% in 2021, and the top three suppliers (along with their respective market shares) are, in order, China-based Huawei (30%), Sweden-based Ericsson (23%), and Finland-based Nokia (20%), according to TrendForce’s latest investigations. Remarkably, although Huawei remains banned by the US government, the company still manages to dominate its competitors in terms of market share due to its products’ cost advantages as well as the enormous demand from the domestic Chinese market.
It should be pointed out that Samsung has similarly benefitted from its relatively low costs and successful 5G commercialization efforts, both of which helped propel its market share this year to 12.5% and secure the fourth place in the global ranking. Not only is Samsung supplying base station components to the three largest mobile network operators in Korea, but it is also collaborating with operators in the US (including AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon) while having established supply agreements with NTT DoCoMo in Japan. On the other hand, Japanese supplier NEC has received its first ever overseas orders this year, from British mobile network Vodafone. Japan-based Fujitsu, likewise, has also been chosen by the British government as an alternative supplier of 5G base station equipment in place of Huawei.
TrendForce indicates that the proliferation of distance learning and WFH applications has brought about a massive 40% increase in average global network bandwidth consumption as the world works to bring the COVID-19 pandemic under control. As such, the 5G network is able to satisfy the current market demand due to its high bandwidth and low latency characteristics. Furthermore, as 5G commercial demand rises in various countries, the GSA (Global mobile Suppliers Association) announced that “the number of announced 5G devices has surpassed 800 for the first time and now stands at 822 announced 5G devices”. These products, including both consumer and enterprise applications, have been released in response to the demand for faster, more convenient network connections across a broad range of applications. In sum, all of the aforementioned factors are drivers of increased 5G base station build-out worldwide.
Key to Huawei’s market share leadership, 5G users in China account for 90% of the global total in 2021
Owing to the ongoing China-US trade war, both Huawei and the three largest mobile network operators in China have been barred from engaging in investment-related activities with US companies. In addition, in July 2021, the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) finalized a US$1.9 billion plan that subsidizes domestic telecom companies to replace base station components from Chinese suppliers, such as Huawei and ZTE, that the FCC considers a potential risk to US national security. Huawei and ZTE have subsequently become unable to acquire key RF front-end components from US suppliers, thereby prompting Huawei to shift its base station infrastructure business towards the domestic Chinese market instead.
Regardless, TrendForce’s findings indicate that, as of late-2020, the number of 5G users in China surpassed 160 million, which represented about 89% of the global total. As of July 2021, the three largest mobile network operators in China, including China Mobile, China Unicom, and China Telecom, have established 916,000 5G base stations domestically, which comprise 70% of the global total. Not only does this number point to the impressive magnitude of the Chinese telecom market, but it has also been the key to Huawei’s leadership in the base station market for nearly two years.