At the beginning of the new year, everything is renewed. Hundreds of domestic chip companies are sailing to the Starry Sea of science and technology.

Looking back, according to the latest data released by the American Semiconductor Association (SIA), the global chip sales in 2020 were 439billion US dollars. In 2020, China’s chip imports exceeded US $300billion, accounting for about 18% of the total domestic imports. According to ICCAD statistics, the sales volume of domestic chips in 2020 was 381.94 billion yuan, about 56.17 billion US dollars (1:6.8 in US dollars and RMB), a year-on-year increase of 23.8%, accounting for nearly 13% of the global sales revenue of integrated circuit products, and the self-sufficiency rate was about 20%.

Looking forward to the future, the rise of China’s chip industry has been unstoppable, mainly reflected in the domestic chip design industry. Ten years later, China will become the world’s largest chip exporter, mainly in the middle and low-end chips. However, the upstream materials and semiconductor production and testing equipment will still be monopolized by foreign companies.

As a participant in the RF industry, the author believes that 2021 will be a year of great changes in the domestic RF industry, which will also be a microcosm before the great changes in the domestic chip design industry.

Quantitative change to qualitative change

In 2004, ruidike (RDA) was established to start the domestic RF PA design, which also created half of the domestic RF industry.

Then there are vanchip, Zhongpu micro, Haoxin, Huizhi micro, hantianxia, Feixiang technology, Zhuosheng micro, yique. So far, there are more than 50 large and small RF chip companies.

In terms of sales, companies and products, the domestic RF industry is undergoing a process from quantitative change to qualitative change.

sales volume

In 2018, the sales volume of domestic RF front-end chips was about 300million US dollars, including 100million US dollars for discrete RF switches /lna and 200million US dollars for PA. The global sales volume of RF PA and switch /lna is about 6billion US dollars, and the market share of Chinese companies is 5%. However, the total sales volume of domestic filters is less than 100million US dollars, the global filter market size is about 8billion US dollars, and Chinese companies account for about 1%.

In 2020, with the arrival of 5g and the rapid growth of domestic RF companies, according to market statistics, the sales of domestic RF front-end chips will increase to about $900million; The demand for discrete switches reached its peak, and more demand came from mobile RX FEM; There are also more and more mobile PA end integrations. Since 3G PA, mobile PA has existed in the form of FEM. At 5g, PA module integration is becoming higher and higher. The global sales volume of RF PA and switch /lna is about 9billion US dollars, and the market share of Chinese companies is about 10%. The global filter market is about US $10.5 billion. Although there is no public data on the sales of domestic filters, it is estimated that it is about US $200million, and the Chinese company accounts for about 2%.

2021 or the first year of great changes in the domestic RF industry

company

Mobile phone PA companies with sales of more than RMB 200million in 2020: vancip, huizhiwei, onruiwei, Feixiang technology, Ruishi Chuangxin, Ziguang zhanrui (RF product line).

Companies entering the mobile phone PA track in 2018: hunting core semiconductor and simpark Technology

Fastest growing mobile phone PA company: Ruishi Chuangxin (established in 2017)

WiFi FEM companies: Zhuosheng micro, Kangxi, Sanwu micro, xinbaite, lexic, Weijie Chuangxin, Feixiang technology, Ziguang zhanrui (RF product line). In addition, WiFi FEM has at least 10 new entrants in research.

Companies that can provide WiFi 6 FEM products: Kangxi, Sanwu, zhuoshengwei

Base station PA companies: Zhisheng, anqiwei, Huatai, Mingyi, xinbaite, etc. it is said that there are also more than 10.

Mobile phone discrete switch /lna company: Zhuosheng micro (70% of the market), Ziguang zhanrui, onrui micro, Aiwei, Weill, Camry, Feixiang technology, Weijie Chuangxin, and several new companies.

Mobile RX FEM: Zhuosheng micro (mass produced and shipped), Kaiyuan communication, etc. It is expected that companies that make discrete switches and LNA, or mobile phone PA, will enter this track, because this track is much larger than discrete switches and LNA, but the technology overlaps.

Filter Companies: Haoda, Deqing Huaying (CLP No. 55 Institute), Zhuosheng micro, maijie technology, Xinwei communication, north, Kaiyuan communication, Zhongke hantianxia, zuolun microelectronics, supermaterial information, Ziguang zhanrui (RF product line), etc. at least five more companies are doing wave filters.

product

Products include: 2G PA, 3G PA, 4G PA, 5g PA, WiFi 4 FEM, WiFi 5 FEM, WiFi 6 FEM, base station PA, switch, LNA, RX FEM, RX filter, TX filter, duplexer.

Product time: domestic 4G PA was listed 2-3 years later than foreign countries, but domestic 5g PA was only listed 1 year later; Domestic wifi4/wifi5 are listed 4-5 years later than foreign countries, but domestic wifi6 FEM is only 2 years later than foreign countries. Now the switch and LNA can basically be launched synchronously, but the filter lags behind for 5~10 years.

2G PA, 3G PA: represented by Angrui micro, it fully realizes domestic substitution and has high cost performance.

4G PA: it is close to the foreign level. Represented by Weijie Chuangxin and Huizhi micro, Ruishi Chuangxin and Feixiang technology have also done well, both of which are recognized by major customers and mass produced.

5g PA: huizhiwei is the first 5g PA mass production company in China, and has achieved batch shipment of 5g mobile phone benchmark customers. Weijie Chuangxin will also start 5g PA mass production. According to the market information, Ruishi Chuangxin should be the third.

WiFi 4/wifi 5 FEM: in terms of low and medium power, domestic products can basically replace foreign products. Kangxi, Zhuosheng and Sanwu all have a full range of products.

Wifi6 FEM: Kangxi is the first company in China to launch products, and it will start batch shipment in 2020. At present, Kangxi 5.8G WiFi 6 FEM is the best in China, and Sanwu micro 2.4G WiFi 6 FEM is the best in China.

Switch /lna: the domestic companies of these products have better performance and cheaper cost than those abroad. For mobile phone switch, Zhuosheng micro is the best; WiFi switch, sanwuwei is the best.

Filter: RX filter is mainly concentrated in China. Represented by Haoda, Xiaomi and Huawei industrial funds invest at the same time. In addition, it has entered the stage of listing guidance, so there is a lot of room for development in the future.

Outgoing line to elimination

It has been two years since the establishment of the science and innovation board and the pilot reform of the registration system on November 5, 2018. The scientific innovation board under the registration system has set a benchmark for China’s economic transformation and industrial upgrading; At the same time, it also means that listing is only a new starting point for enterprise development, not the ultimate goal.

For many domestic chip companies, it is only the qualifying match before listing, and the real elimination match after listing.

Before listing

Nowadays, many domestic chip start-ups are born for listing. From the first day of establishment, they think and talk about how to go public.

Before listing, the focus is on the team and capital. The influence of the team and investment institutions will bring market resources and supply chain resources.

Listing can only focus on performance without profit, and it can also be listed at a loss. Therefore, it has opened a vast qualifying competition in the domestic chip industry. Founders work hard for it, investors are crazy for it.

Making chips has changed from long-distance running to short-distance running. From listing in the past ten years to the goal of listing in the next three to five years. Products are not polished, but more and faster, which can quickly form performance. The direction is not to focus, but to spread the net and reap more. The bigger the cake, the better the financing.

In the direction of RF product line, there are more than 10 or even 20 companies in each sub circuit, and new start-ups are coming in. Because investors only think about whether they can achieve a revenue of 200million yuan and want to get rid of it immediately after listing. As for the future, it will be a legend.

In the chip industry, we all know the story that the eldest brother eats meat, the second eats bones, and the third may not be able to drink soup; However, everyone has different starting points and goals. The goal of investment institutions is to get rich returns through 3-5 years of investment.

As the founder of a chip company, he should not only understand the industry, but also have responsibilities. Listing is just a qualifying match for chip companies and the beginning of becoming a successful and socially responsible enterprise.

After listing

Go out immediately after listing. Listing is the only way for domestic chip companies to truly succeed. Small and beautiful chip companies are not favored by investors; Without the power of capital, it is difficult to have the opportunity to become a domestic chip leading enterprise, let alone a world-class chip company.

With the successful application of Weijie Chuangxin for the IPO guidance of sci tech innovation board, the listing of domestic PA companies began. Subsequently, Huizhi micro, Angrui micro, Feixiang technology and Ruishi Chuangxin all have the conditions for listing on the science and innovation board, and will soon start a wonderful and exciting elimination competition.

After listing, the company is faced with the double assessment of performance and profit, and the company’s operation returns to normalization. The chip companies that cannot make profits will eventually be abandoned by the stock market. The continuous growth of performance and profits has become the biggest driving force for chip listed companies.

In fact, it is very difficult to face not only the competition among listed companies, but also the competition and disruption of unlisted chip companies regardless of profits. It is conceivable that the picture is cruel.

Generally speaking, there are only three chip listed companies left on each RF segment track, and companies other than the three will either change lanes or lose out.

There will be three mobile phone PA companies, up to three WiFi FEM racetracks, up to two base station PA companies (Huawei and ZTE will have their own base station PA), and only one discrete switch /lna, which should be Zhuosheng micro. RX FEM has the opportunity to have three, and this track has great uncertainty. The filter is the largest RF track, accounting for 50%. It is also the most difficult track. In the end, the listed companies that make money can only play it slowly.

Competition to pattern

Competition determines the pattern, and the pattern determines the future.

Who is the leader of RF front-end devices? It is PA. Those who get Pa will get the RF world. In the future, the domestic RF leader must be a mobile phone PA listed company. PA competition is also the wind vane of domestic RF industry. Next, 5g PA and WiFi 6 FEM will be the most fierce competition in domestic RF front-end.

5g PA competition

5g PA is the technical and strategic commanding point of the RF industry, and 5g PA determines the success or failure of the company. In the next three years, 5g Pa will earn performance and profits, while 4G PA can only earn performance. At any track, there will be no profit if there are more than 4 homogeneous products. From the current situation, there will not be more than three domestic PA companies that can truly enter 5g brand mobile phones in the next two years.

In 2020, Weijie Chuangxin and huizhiwei will be profitable mobile PA companies in China. Once listed, the profitability of the company will be further improved with 5g PA. If the low-cost 5g PA can be used to snipe new competitors in the low-end 5g mobile phones, 5g modules and CPE market, the domestic 5g PA competition pattern has been determined.

Although 4G PA and 5g PA have always been called, in fact, 4g/5g PA is not a single PA, but a FEM composed of multiple dies, which contains PA, switch, LNA and filter. 5g PA company has the design capability and supply chain resources of switch /lna, and also has the development and sealing test capability of Rx FEM. RX FEM includes diffem, lfem and femid.

5g PA is a potential competitor to RX FEM and WiFi FEM. However, 5g PA technology is very different from WiFi 6 FEM technology, and it also needs the accumulation of technology and time.

WiFi 6 FEM competition

Competition to stimulate vitality; Competition enables enterprises to learn how to respond to adversity and make them have strong competitiveness.

There are more than 20 competitive participants in domestic WiFi 6 FEM, and the competition will be extremely fierce. The reason is that the track is promising, and the requirements for team size and capital are much lower than those for mobile 4/5g Pa. however, after doing so, we will find that the requirements for technology are not low at all.

The more participants, the more hopeful and promising the domestic WiFi 6 FEM will be. The more R & D and funds invested, the closer the technological gap between wifi6 FEM and foreign countries will be. In the short term, the dispersion of manpower and capital weakens the R & D efforts and progress; In the long run, it has laid the foundation and trained talents for the sustainable development of WiFi FEM in China.

In the market, the mobile phone PA company came to the WiFi FEM track, and the base station PA company also came to the WiFi FEM track for short-term performance growth. Finally, these R & D talents will gather in the top three companies of the track, and the products and technologies will usher in an explosive period.

So far, there is no profitable WiFi FEM company. Judging from the current competitive situation, it is difficult to make profits in 2-3 years. How to survive in the competition and how to get to the top three in the competition are the things that every WiFi FEM company needs to think about and correspond to. Find a strategic breakthrough in the competition and realize the competition pattern you want.

Other competition

1. discrete switch /lna: Zhuosheng micro accounts for 70% of the shares relying on key customer barriers and supply chain barriers, and the remaining 30% of the shares are contested by 7~8 companies.

2. RX FEM: Zhuosheng micro takes the lead all the way, and Rx FEM is also its subsequent main profit source. This is the track that Zhuosheng micro will stick to. It will improve technical barriers on the basis of key customer barriers and supply chain barriers, so as to form its own base camp. The competition in this track will be long-term. The mobile phone PA company will definitely enter this track by using the existing technology and supply chain resources. The discrete switch /lna company will also turn to this track, and the subsequent competition will intensify. Therefore, it is unlikely that chip start-ups will rely on RX FEM to go public.

3. base station PA: my personal understanding is not necessarily correct. I feel that the base station PA track looks very big, but it is very small. There is still a lot of competition. If the companies that mainly do base station PA no longer want to do mobile phone PA or WiFi FEM, it means that there is hope for this track.

4. filter: according to the current situation, the domestic filter is very promising and has no competition. The market is so large that the sales and market share of domestic filters are still very low, which can accommodate more new entrants and competitors.

epilogue

Competition determines the state. Who you compete with and how you compete will result in different results.

Choose your competition object and mode, control the scale and financing rhythm of the company, and grasp the competition and development rhythm of the company. Every choice and decision will determine the fate and future of the company.

The domestic RF industry is about to enter a period of rapid development. Every chip company wants to seize the opportunity. Being radical or conservative will be a risk, testing the adaptability of each chip company. Regardless of the outcome, every entrepreneur and investor deserves respect. Chip design companies have only two choices in the end. You train talents for others or others train talents for you.

The domestic RF industry is not only a technology competition, but also a strategy.

Editor ajx

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