Friday, June 25, 2010

Motorola poised to spin off a debt-free handset group

Details are emerging about Motorola's plan to split in two entities next year, resulting in the spin off its handset unit. This division, according to reports in The Wall Street Journal, will emerge largely debt-free, and will have a cash reserve of $3bn to $4bn. Following a slew of smartphone launches, the company’s handset division is expected to regain profitability by the end of this year, after losing about $5bn over the past three years, resulting in a severe cost cutting program.

The separated device business would be called Motorola Mobility, say the reports, and will also include the set-top-box businesses. The remaining assets, which include the wireless infrastructure, enterprise and public safety activities, will be grouped under the name Motorola Solutions. This division will take on the remaining pension obligations and liabilities - it has been positive in most of its units over the past few years, unlike handsets, and generated a combined $11.1bn in 2009.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

GaN and Si Based Technologies Invading GaAs Territory

Our June cover story takes a look at the state of GaAs foundries, their market outlook and how GaN and Si based technologies are impeding on their market share in several applications. SiGe is active in highly integrated mmWave application areas such as automotive radar and high frequency backhaul. Si CMOS designs for handset front ends are starting to find traction in some lower end cellular handsets (Javelin, Skyworks/Axiom, Blue Sand Technolgies, RFAxis, etc). And GaN is taking over some of the very high power niches in commercial and military applications. Read the full cover story here.

Since writing this article, additional news items have been released to support this story as we will continue to follow it. About a week ago, Skyworks announced a cost-effective CMOS front-end module (FEM) for GPRS handsets. Skyworks’ new device offers handset OEMs architectures and high-performance solutions for entry-level phones in a small 5 x 6 mm package. By eliminating the need to optimize matching between the amplifier and the switch, this module helps accelerate customers’ time-to-market relative to other more traditional architectures, and simplifies the supply chain for high-volume, cost-sensitive phones. I believe this device is a continuation of the work done by Axiom Microdevices that they acquired about a year ago. This keeps them in the cellular handset market with both technologies.

And now Engalco has released a new report on how GaN and SiGe are making in roads into traditional GaAs markets. According to their market report – MMICs2 – the compound semiconductor MMIC market to 2015 – GaAs MMICs will remain important, while GaN and SiGe MMICs will progressively invade these markets. Although the overall worldwide total markets are forecasted to reach $6.26 B in 2015, this total continues to be dominated by the commodity markets of cell phones (over $3 B) and both intelligent cruise control and mobile WiMAX ($1.2 B each). After these end-users have been considered, the remaining market segments of defense, ISM, microwave radio, millimeter-wave radio, SATCOM and SATNAV all come in with much lower market shares. Of these, microwave radio accounts for a market worth around $280 M in 2015; millimeter-wave radio exhibits exceptionally high (double-digit) growth to reach $420 M in the same year. The latter market is driven by the exploding capacity requirements of multi-Gbit links.

In the defense segment the report says North America (principally the US) leads, but both Europe and Asia (especially) are increasingly important. The report indicates how both GaN- and SiGe-based MMICs will progressively invade many market segments. The utility of GaN MMICs for high-power/high-efficiency RF amplification is becoming well known; the application will also be extended to other functions in RF modules. SiGe-based MMICs are already being implemented in low-power signal processing roles, mainly in receivers and switches.