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Qorvo IDP Talks about RF GaN

by Eric Higham | Aug 28, 2015

For the regular readers, you how much I talk about the weather and the seasons. I am happy to report that I spent a couple of weeks in sunny and warm South Carolina. My cousin came to visit and we had a great time. She’s a science teacher and she has a keen interest in the compound semiconductor industry, so I got to talk shop way more than I ordinarily would have. For that and several other reasons, she can come again! In a previous blog, I opined about summer vacation marking the end of summer, regardless of when the vacation actually ends. Well, that’s where I am; my summer vacation is over and it’s time to move on!

 One of the things that I talked about with my cousin, April, was the merger of RFMD and TriQuint and the formation of Qorvo. After I got back, I had the pleasure of spending a couple of days with James Klein, President of Qorvo’s Infrastructure and Defense Products (IDP) group and Katie Caballero, the IDP MARCOM manager. James and Katie set up roundtable sessions with various magazines and a video session with Microwave Journal (Interview with James Klein of Qorvo) to discuss Qorvo, focusing on their GaN activity. They were kind enough to ask me to provide a general overview and forecast for the military and commercial GaN markets.

Even though Qorvo is less than a year old, RFMD and TriQuint both had a long and diverse history with GaN. Across the board, the two companies had a number of very complementary product and process capability and this is certainly true of their GaN activities. RFMD helped foster the commercial adoption of GaN, with their amplifier work for CATV/broadband applications and TriQuint had a strong presence with defense agencies and OEMs to drive fundamental research, processes and product development. Qorvo remains a leader in GaN development and my latest research has them as the largest supplier of GaN products to defense applications and in the top tier for overall RF GaN device revenue.

 The purpose of the roundtable sessions was to familiarize the press with the GaN RF opportunity, along with some of Qorvo’s GaN activities. James took the opportunity to announce that Qorvo has successfully transitioned its 0.25um GaN-on-SiC process from 4” to 6” wafers. They expect full rate production in 2016.  This essentially doubles Qorvo’s GaN manufacturing capacity, while also improving the device manufacturing costs. GaN is competing with some mature incumbent device technologies and cost reduction is critical in the battle to capture market share.

 Early concerns about the reliability of the GaN process have eased significantly. James mentioned that Qorvo is the only GaN manufacturer that has achieved a DoD Manufacturing Readiness Level (MRL) of 9, which indicates the capability to enter full rate production. He also showed the following reliability slide:

Qorvo Reliability Chart

Source: Qorvo

This slide shows the Mean Time to Failure (MTTF) for four of Qorvo’s GaN processes. The last number of the process relates to the gate length, with “25” signifying a 0.25um process, “15” signifying a 0.15um process and “50” signifying a 0.50um process. The dark blue line on the chart shows the intersection of an MTTF value of 1 x 106 hours and 2000C. This is the “accepted” failure rate for GaN processes and the chart shows how the Qorvo processes range from two to nearly five orders of magnitude higher MTTF numbers at 2000C. It also shows that these devices can operate at significantly higher temperatures, while still maintaining an acceptable MTTF level. This reliability performance, coupled with the transition to 6” wafers and Qorvo’s heritage in the commercial and defense markets positions the company as a force in the RF GaN market going forward.

 I want to reiterate my thanks to Qorvo for inviting me to spend a couple of days learning about the interesting GaN developments and products from the IDP group. Keep an eye out for more RF GaN product and process developments from Qorvo. As always, I’d be happy to discuss how Strategy Analytics can help with any GaN or compound semiconductor challenges you may be facing and check back for updates on all aspects of the compound semiconductor market.

 - Eric

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