the systems view blog

Applying our perspective to industry topics and trends

October 27, 2021

The Impact of 5G on Semiconductors: Three Things to Know

The tech world is abuzz about 5G—and for good reason. This fifth generation of wireless technology for digital cellular is driving potential for high-tech companies that are developing increasingly connected devices and smart products.  5G is also requiring semiconductor fabs—which produce the chips these devices need to operate—to keep up.

The rollout of 5G has opened the door to the Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity, automation, artificial intelligence (AI), and edge technologies. New devices that are utilized in this smarter standard, however, will require fabs to produce higher performing chips and wafers with even greater capacity for memory and storage.

This demands that the manufacturing equipment and gas delivery systems utilized in fabs are built for greater complexity, ensuring higher levels of precision are achieved and process integrity is upheld. Let’s take a look at three things you should know about 5G technology for semiconductors today—and tomorrow.

  1. 5G is now the standard for devices—which means a lot for semiconductor companies.

5G has many benefits over earlier generations of cellular mobile communications, and has become the standard for today’s smart devices.

Prior to 5G, almost all cellular mobile communications took place in sub 3GHz bands with a maximum channel bandwidth of 20 MHz. But as smartphones have become the norm and the number of users and data packets passed on cellular mobile networks has increased, it was obvious that the industry needed to look beyond 3GHz bands.

5G then emerged in response to the pressing need for additional capacity to handle greater volumes of data than ever before.  5G works by utilizing a 30 GHz to 300 GHz frequency band, known as a millimeter wave (mmW), to operate at a frequency of 10mm to 1mm. This offers higher speeds and improved capacity over 4G. More importantly for high-tech innovators, however, is 5G’s extreme reliability and ultra low latency. This allows IoT applications, like machine to machine (M2M) communications, to handle the large volumes of data needed to operate mission-critical control applications.

For semiconductor companies, meeting the demands of emerging technologies that can run on 5G will mean increasing chips’ baseline memory to process far more data and handle more specific applications. It will also necessitate generating a higher volume of chips in a shorter period of time as innovators race to capitalize on the new potential unlocked by 5G.

  1. A wide range of industries are leveraging 5G, with smartphones as its main drivers.

Smartphones, in particular, are driving the 5G revolution. More smartphones enter the market every year, and Gartner projects 5G smartphones will account for 71% of all smartphones by 2024. Chip volume and radio frequency frontend modules for 5G and 5G mmW is also expected to double in premium smartphones. This will have major implications for 5G semiconductor revenue, which is projected to increase from nearly zero in 2018 to $31.5 billion by 2023.

But smartphones aren’t the only devices using 5G. The emergence of 5G has caused a definitive shift for semiconductor companies, as they now must develop chips for much more complex applications across vast industries.  A wide range of industries that produce connected industrial and consumer products are also utilizing 5G. Some of these cutting-edge products and services include:

  • Autonomous vehicles
  • Asset tracking
  • Smart city management
  • Wearable technology
  • Artificial intelligence

The development of more complex chips requires that all equipment and systems utilized in fabs, like the gas delivery cabinet, for example, must be designed to meet ultra high purity process demands. And there is no room for error when it comes to today’s unique and stringent requirements.

  1. High purity gas delivery equipment powers high-tech, 5G-enabled innovations.

So as 5G continues to be the gold standard for connectivity today and chip complexity becomes rapidly more advanced, only leading-edge semiconductors can be utilized. These devices have become more complex and efficient over the years, and their significant reduction in size (some are precisely fabricated with widths of around 10 nanometers) has enabled a host of technologies to become smaller and more powerful.

With more technology resulting in more densely packed semiconductor wafers, this means every tiny area of the material is absolutely critical. Engineers must uphold high purity and precision in order to maintain operations in the next generation of wafer fabrication. Ultra high levels of purity need to be maintained during fabrication, as the slightest contaminate or deviation could render semiconductors completely unusable.

Having the right gas purification technology, like ARM Purification purifiers, in place can make all the difference. This technology can remove contaminates down to the parts per trillion (PPT) level to ensure impurities do not impact production.

The gas delivery equipment utilized in fabrication is equally important. This equipment must also be able to uphold the highest standards of precision and purity. Applied Energy Systems’ SEMI-GAS® SEMI S2 compliant ultra high purity gas delivery systems are an example of solutions that can assist in this area. These gas delivery systems are the equipment of choice for Tier 1 semiconductor leaders who are looking to power their next-generation innovation.

Fabs Should Embrace the 5G Revolution

The future of 5G is as bright, with reports predicting that the global 5G value chain will enable $13.2 trillion in economic output by 2035. The investment in 5G will very likely have a downstream effect on semiconductor sales, with fabs producing a higher volume of chips for both emerging and existing markets, and the quality and reliability of the equipment required for fabrication.

AES can power your organization’s innovation and approach to 5G by engineering and delivering application-specific, high and ultra high purity gas delivery and distribution equipment, services and solutions. Contact us today.


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