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Date: 11-03-13

Tower Semiconductor gain share in FEM market by replacing GaAs with Si

The specialty semiconductor foundry service provider TowerJazz has announced it is gaining significant market share in the fast growing Front-End Module (FEM) market. TowerJazz's radio module packs antenna switches, antenna tuners, diversity switches, controllers, low-noise-amplifiers (LNAs) and power amplifiers (PAs), and that saves the designer from using discrete GaAs devices. Tower says it employs RF Silicon on Insulator (SOI) technology and a SiGe PA technology together with 0.18um RF CMOS for integration of control and MIPI (Mobile Industry Processor Interface) interface functions.

TowerJazz achieved best figure of merit for antenna switch and antenna tuning applications with Ron-Coff of only 217fs using RF SOI technology instead of GaAs technology. Tower claims there are over 50 separate designs taped-in with initial designs ramping to production.

To power amplifier, controller, and MIPI interface are fabricated using TowerJazz's Silicon Germanium (SiGe) PA process at 0.18um technology node.
Through-silicon-via is also employed by Tower for 3D IC stacking.

TowerJazz says the economic and performance driven move from GaAs technologies to Si and SiGe technologies is expected to more than triple the portion of the FEM market available to the company over the next several years.

Tower shares market forecast by Mobile Experts, LLC, which says the handset front-end market is expected to double to $10 billion and the number of RF paths is expected to grow to 20 billion by 2017. The report further indicates that multi-mode, multi-band handsets and MIMO (multiple-input and multiple-output) will drive staggering growth in the number of RF components shipped for mobile devices.

The drivers contributing to the growth in the FEM market as per Tower includes: Connectivity everywhere - 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, NFC, GPS, Bluetooth, ZigBee, HSPA+ and LTE; the expanding footprint/content in mobile platforms; and the emergence of other analog markets - smart energy, power management, emerging automotive, and others. TowerJazz says it is addressing these markets and further recognizing three megatrends: (1) Green Everything, (2) Wireless Everywhere, and (3) Smart Everything which are transforming the consumer electronics industry as well as our everyday lives.

"These megatrends, coupled with the slowing of Moore's law, will create even more opportunities for specialty technologies such as those provided by TowerJazz: analog, RF, SiGe, power, MEMS, and CMOS image sensors to offer even more differentiation and create opportunities for system level optimization of performance," said Russell Ellwanger, TowerJazz CEO. "By mastering both digital and analog technologies, TowerJazz is in a unique position to ride these trends successfully and grow more rapidly in the marketplace, as being evidenced by our FEM market leadership."

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