According to media reports, Xilinx, the world’s largest programmable chip (FPGA) manufacturer, has officially launched virtex ultrascale + vu19p, the largest FPGA chip in history.

Vu19p adopts 16nm process and arm architecture. It has 35 billion transistors. It also has the highest logic density and maximum I / O number of a single chip in history (9 million system logic units and 2072 user I / O interfaces). It is used for the simulation and prototype design of the most advanced AI chip, 5g chip and automobile chip. It will be launched in the autumn of 2020.

The Ali Dharma Institute has released a FPGA chip technology on AI speech – Ouroboros, which can improve the computational efficiency of speech generation algorithm by more than 100 times. So, what’s special about FPGA? What are its market prospects and investment opportunities?

FPGA (field programmable gate array) is an integrated circuit with programmable characteristics pre designed and implemented on silicon chip. It can be configured as the specified circuit structure according to the needs of designers, so that customers do not have to rely on ASIC chips designed and manufactured by chip manufacturers. It is widely used in prototype verification, communication, automotive electronics, industrial control, aerospace Data center and other fields.

What's special about FPGA chip

Compared with ASIC, FPGA has three advantages:

(1) Flexibility: by programming FPGA, FPGA can perform any logic function that ASIC can perform. The unique advantage of FPGA lies in its flexibility, that is, it can change the chip function at any time. In the immature stage of technology, this feature can reduce the cost and risk of products. This feature is particularly important in the early stage of 5g.

(2) Time to market: since the FPGA can be used directly after it is purchased and programmed, the FPGA scheme does not need to wait for a chip streaming cycle of three months to one year, which has won the time to market for the enterprise.

(3) Cost: the main difference between FPGA and ASIC is that the latter has a fixed cost, but there is almost no FPGA scheme. When the usage is small, the cost of FPGA scheme is lower than that of ASIC because it does not need to pay a one-time million dollar streaming cost and bear the risk of streaming failure. With the increase of usage, the cost advantage of FPGA scheme is gradually reduced. After exceeding a certain usage, ASIC scheme has economies of scale due to a large number of streamers and has more advantages in cost.

According to the data of WSTS, the global integrated circuit market reached US $468.8 billion in 2018, and the global FPGA market was about US $6.3 billion in the same period, accounting for only about 1.34% of the integrated circuit market. Although the market is small, it will benefit from the global layout of 5g infrastructure and the continuous development of AI technology in the future, and the demand growth of FPGA industry is uncertain.

In the 5g era, the FPGA market is facing the opportunity of both volume and price. Since FPGA is mainly used in the baseband of transceiver, in the 5g era, due to the increase of the number of channels and the increase of computational complexity, the scale of FPGA used will increase. Because the pricing of FPGA is positively related to on-chip resources, the single cost of FPGA in the communication field will also increase in the future. At present, the unit price of FPGA in base station transceiver is usually in the range of several hundred yuan, which is expected to be further improved in the future. The main cost and power consumption of the transceiver are contributed by the baseband part. In the future, the technical complexity will push up the transceiver cost again, which will be transmitted to the base station AAU price rise.

The increase in FPGA shipment brought by 5g comes from two aspects. First, the increase in the number of communication base stations drives the increase in the consumption of FPGA parts. At the initial stage of 5g, the number of base stations increased month on month. On the other hand, due to the rapid attenuation of 5g signal and the huge demand for small base stations, it is expected to exceed 10 million in the next decade, with a significant year-on-year increase in 4G period. Second, the increase of single base station FPGA consumption drives the overall increase of FPGA communication market consumption. Due to the high concurrent processing requirements of 5g massive MIMO, the consumption of single base station FPGA is expected to increase from 2-3 blocks in 4G period to 4-5 blocks in 5g period, which will drive the overall consumption of FPGA.

In addition, FPGA is widely used in the field of AI accelerator card because of its flexibility and high-speed computing ability. According to the data of semiconductor research, the market scale of FPGA in AI field is expected to reach US $5.2 billion in 2023. Compared with the current FPGA market of US $6.3 billion, the application in AI field can not be underestimated.

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