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Prismark Partners LLC presented a detailed report at the recent CPCA meeting and show in Shanghai, China, on the challenges and opportunities for the PCB market. Part of the discussion was on 5G and is excerpted here with permission.
5G promises exciting new capabilites. The objective is to achieve the following goals, although not necessarily all in the same device or use scenario: User data rates 10x faster, num bers of connections 10x greater, latency 10x shorter and battery life 100x longer. It enables new applications in virtual/augmented reality and artificial intelligence; ultra-dense connections mean massive IoT capability; among other things, autonomous cars can become a reality (Figure 1).
Realizing the full potential of 5G will require the use of new frequency bands. Cellular networks currently use frequencies below 3.5 GHz because these offer a good tradeoff between performance and cost. Sub-1GHz frequency bands are particularly good for indoor penetration (going through walls), and as legacy standards are being phased out (starting already with 2G) these bands will be re-allocated to 4G and 5G.
Lower frequencies offer longer range and thus broad coverage at lower cost, but the available bandwidth is too limited to provide full 5G services. Extreme data speed and capacity can only be provided with wider frequency bands, and these are only available at much higher frequencies (>20 GHz). Unfortunately, these higher frequencies also suffer from short range and higher costs; they are most useful for local high-traffic hot spots and backhaul services. In addition, WiFi already complements 4G/5G with higher data rates at short range, and the convergence of WiFi and cellular networks will continue.
5G commercial service will be starting in 2018 initially with fixed wireless, often at high frequencies (e.g., 28 GHz or 39 GHz). Mobile network deployments will gradually start by 2020 and sub-6 GHz will remain the most common frequency. Figure 3 illustrates high speed and high frequency applications.
PCB Market Opportunities and Challenges
The PCB market will continue to expand in the next few years. Prismark forecasts 3.8% growth in 2018 and 3.2% CAAGR from 2017 to 2022. Some of the key growth opportunities include:
- High-speed and high-frequency circuit boards for high data rate and RF applications such as automotive, 5G, AI, and others
- Fine line/space HDI and FPC boards; mSAP technology is fully recognized
- Fine pitch packaging substrates; <5 µm line/space is desired
- Low loss materials, e.g., PTFE-like and LCP-like
- PVD processing technologies for fine pitch or special applications
- Processing automation and intelligent manufacturing
To read the full version of this article which originally appeared in the May 2018 issue of PCB007 Magazine, click here.