- In Q1 2022, the smartphone RF front-end market recorded nearly $4.4 billion in revenues.
- Qualcomm managed to expand its market share to around 23.5%.
- For 2022, despite the projected decline in smartphone shipments, the global RFFE market is expected to achieve a high single-digit growth rate.
The overall sales of diverse RF front-end components, mainly including PA (RF power amplifier) integrated modules, diversity receive modules and RF discrete components such as filters, switches, LNAs (low-noise amplifiers) and power trackers, was close to $4.4 billion in Q1 2022, according to Counterpoint’s smartphone RF front-end industry research.
In Q1 2022, 5G accounted for half of the total smartphone shipments and exceeded LTE shipments for the first time, thus driving greater RF semiconductor content in smartphones. Thanks to richer RF content and the corresponding modularization trend in support of Sub-6GHz and mmWave 5G capabilities, RF front-end suppliers possessing a broad technology portfolio, especially Qualcomm, Skyworks and Qorvo, achieved significant YoY sales growth and continued to lead the market.
Smartphone RF Front-end (RFFE) Revenue Share by Vendor, Q1 2022
Qualcomm led the market with 23.5% share registering strong growth. As always, the first quarter was filled with a batch of new flagship launches, mostly powered by the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1. The increasing mid-to-high 5G design-win pipeline helped Qualcomm further expand its leadership in the growing RFFE segment along with its complete modem-to-antenna solution.
Qorvo also gained share with increased business from Android-based smartphone brands. Qorvo saw steady rise for its solutions across Samsung’s both flagship and mass-market 5G A & M series smartphones. For instance, Qorvo is providing a highly-integrated PAMiD (PA Module integrated with Duplexer) module, RF switches and Wi-Fi 6 front-end modules for the Galaxy S22 series. Besides, Qorvo was recognized by HONOR as the latter’s only core strategic supplier of RF front-end components, which will help Qorvo’s growth as Honor has been growing at a rapid clip since the brand separated from Huawei.
Skyworks slipped to third place in terms of smartphone RFFE revenue, along with the decrease in iPhone sales due to seasonality and pandemic-related disruptions in China. In Q1 2022, Apple alone was estimated to contribute more than 80% of Skyworks’ earnings from smartphone applications. Samsung was again a 10%+ client for Skyworks’ mobile business. Skyworks’ higher exposure to Apple and Samsung is both a boon and a bane and client diversification will be the key.
The top three vendors continued to command more than half of the smartphone RFFE market, followed by Murata and Broadcom, both registering a sequential sales decrease. Chinese players represented by Maxscend and Vanchip managed to expand their market share with increased shipments of L-PAMiF modules to major OEMs.
High single-digit growth expected for 2022
Although prospects for the 2022 smartphone market have darkened since the Ukraine war outbreak and new round of pandemic in China, the average RFFE content will still continue to increase due to the spread of 5G and new frequency bands to be adopted for global roaming or higher network speeds (mmWave). The smartphone RF front-end business’ overall revenue is still likely to see high single-digit growth in 2022 to exceed $18 billion.