White Paper: Growing 5G+Wi-Fi RF Complexity Demands Innovative, Advanced & Tightly Integrated RFFE Solutions

Growing 5G+Wi-Fi RF Complexity Demands Innovative, Advanced & Tightly Integrated RFFE Solutions


PDF | 15 pages
Published date: July 2023

The rising adoption of advanced multimode cellular (5G, 4G) and wireless (Wi-Fi 6/6E/7) delivers powerful benefits while also driving significant RF complexity in smart connected devices. 5G and Wi-Fi 7 integration has multiple challenges that need cutting-edge RF design, components and end-to-end optimization. There are multiple players in the RF Front-End (RFFE) ecosystem, but most are specialists in only one or a few areas.

This paper highlights the technology potential of these powerful wireless technologies, complexity it brings and how product designers and manufacturers can solve these complexities with an advanced, end-to-end optimized and integrated RFFE solution.

• Executive Summary
• Proliferating 5G+Wi-Fi 7 A Massive Opportunity
• 5G+Wi-Fi 7 Takes Wireless Performance to the Next Level
• 5G+Wi-Fi 7 Coexistence Brings RF Complexity
• 5G+Wi-Fi 7 Solutions for Potential Challenges to Performance Enhancement
• Key Takeaways

Neil Shah

Research Vice President


Parv Sharma

Senior Analyst



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STMicro Beats Q1 2023 Earnings Expectations Despite Chip Shortages

  • STMicro expects 2023 revenue of $17.0 billion-$17.8 billion, representing a 5%-10% growth over 2022.
  • Silicon carbide (SiC) substrate manufacturing facility in Catania will fulfill the continuing demand as Silicon Carbide (SiC) in EVs is growing substantially.
  • In 2023, revenue from SiC is expected to be around $1.2 billion, with a significant portion of its substrates internally sourced by 2024.

STMicro’s Q1 2023 net revenue rose 19.8% YoY to reach $4.25 billion, primarily driven by strong demand from the automotive and industrial segments and partially offset by lower revenue in personal electronics. Revenue from factory automation, robotics and building control grew while new orders normalized. STMicro will have a significant portion of its substrates internally sourced by 2024 as it continues to ramp up silicon carbide front-end device production in its Singapore facility. The company’s gross margin improved to 300bps YoY and 220 bps QoQ in Q1 2023 driven by favorable pricing and improved product mix, net of hedging, but was partially offset by an increase in manufacturing input costs.

STMicro Beats Q1 2023 Earnings Expectations Despite Chip Shortages

  • Automotive: The automotive sector has maintained its momentum helped by a surge in EV adoption and semiconductor integration. STMicro has secured multiple design contracts for SiC, silicon MOSFETs, onboard charging MCUs and zonal controller solutions from several electric vehicle manufacturers. STMicro won several design contracts in vehicle dynamics, airbags and anti-theft applications, as well as SPC5 microcontrollers for vehicle body control in the legacy automotive sector. The legacy automotive sector remains dynamic for now, as silicon integration continues to grow. 
  • Industrial: The industrial segment experienced a surge in demand, driven by the digitalization of devices and the need for improved power and energy efficiency. STMicro secured several design contracts in the industrial sector, offering system solutions that consist of power discrete, power management and STM32 microcontrollers for use in renewable energy applications, multi-product solutions for smart meters, smart grid applications, intelligent power switches, motor drivers, industrial sensors and secure solutions for applications such as industrial automation, asset tracking and server power supplies. STMicro has also introduced the MCU Edge-AI Developer Cloud which includes an online benchmarking service for Edge-AI models on STM32 boards.
  • Personal Electronics: STMicro’s products, such as NFC controllers, secure elements, wireless charging, MEMS sensors and time-of-flight sensors have been chosen by leading smartphone and wearable device manufacturers. In the communications and computer equipment sector, STMicro has secured several design contracts for LEO satellites, as well as for computer peripherals including secure solutions, time-of-flight sensors, microcontrollers and ASICs for communications infrastructure.

Segment Revenue

  1. Automotive and Discrete (ADG): Q1 2023 revenue of $1,807 million, up 43.9% YoY in both automotive and power discrete segments.
  2. Analog, MEMS & Sensors (AMS): Q1 2023 revenue was $1,068 million, with a marginal decrease of 0.9% YoY in analog, MEMS and imaging segments.
  3. Microcontrollers & Digital ICs (MDG): Q1 2023 revenue was $1,368 million, increasing 13.2% year-on-year growth in both microcontrollers and RF communications segments.
  • Forecast: Net revenue for Q2 2023 is projected to be around $4.28 billion indicating a 0.8% QoQ increase, with a possible deviation of 350 basis points. Moreover, the projected revenue for FY2023 is expected to be $17.0 billion-$17.8 billion, reflecting 5%-10% YoY growth, primarily driven by the automotive and industrial sectors.
  • Demand and Supply: The high demand for the automotive, industrial power and energy sectors persisted in Q1 2023, propelled by the continued integration of semiconductors and the normalization of orders from the factory and automation sectors. However, at the end of Q1 2023, inventory was at $2.87 billion compared with $2.15 billion in the year-ago quarter. The days of sales in inventory at the end of the quarter were 122, compared with 104 days in Q1 2022. The automotive segment witnessed a surge in demand across all regions, primarily due to the growing use of semiconductors and inventory replenishment. The backlog has now extended to about six quarters at the mid-point of 2023 which is higher than usual but remains consistent with the diverse end-market segments. 
  • Capex and Investment: Capex stood at $1.09 billion in Q1 2023, up from $840 million in the year-ago quarter. The company plans to invest about $4.0 billion with 80% of the investment directed towards the expansion of the 300mm wafer production and the continued ramp up of SiC front-end device manufacturing in Catania and Singapore. The company also intends to increase its back-end manufacturing capacity in Morocco and China.


STMicro is making significant progress by capitalizing on its impressive portfolio and benefiting from the strong demand in the automotive sector despite the supply chain constraints. The partnership between STMicro and Global Foundries is expected to increase the production capacity to 620,000 wafers annually by 2026. Additionally, STMicro has signed a multi-year supply contract with ZF to provide silicon carbide for its modular inverter architecture which is scheduled to commence production in 2025. To further diversify its raw material procurement, STMicro is implementing smart technology to reduce the cost of the solution at the substrate level.

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STMicro – Automotive and Industrial Segments Top Performers in Q4 2022

  • Silicon carbide (SiC) substrate manufacturing facility in Catania to fulfill the increasing demand for SiC in EVs.
  • Strong demand for factory automation, energy and robotics will be the key growth drivers for the Industrial segment in 2023.
  • STMicro expects 2023 revenue of $16.8 billion-$17.8 billion, setting the company on course for its revenue target of more than $20 billion.

Franco-Italian chipmaker STMicroelectronics (STMicro) reported stronger-than-expected Q4 2022 net revenue growth in its Automotive and Industrial segments. Meanwhile, the company’s Personal Electronics segment faced weakness. STMicro aims to internally source a significant portion of its substrates by 2024 as it continues to ramp up the production of SiC front-end devices at its Singapore facility.

  • STMicro’s Q4 2022 net revenue rose 24.4% YoY to $4.42 billion, primarily driven by the strong demand in its Automotive and Industrial segments.
  • Gross margin improved 230bps YoY in Q4 2022 to 47.5% due to favorable pricing and improved product mix, net of hedging. However, it weakened by 20bps on a QoQ basis due to higher manufacturing input costs.


STMicroelectronics Revenue By Segment


  • Automotive: Unprecedented demand across the Automotive segment due to the increase in EV adoption and improvement in semiconductor content. The company is also ramping up its production capacity for transistors used in EVs and has announced a partnership with Volkswagen to jointly develop a system on chip MPU. STMicro ended 2022 with 115 projects, of which 60% were from automotive customers.
  • Industrial: STMicro’s Industrial segment also secured some design wins in both silicon-based and wide band-gap-based devices. In 2022, the company introduced various industrial analog products for factory automation, metering, motion control and home appliances.
  • Personal Electronics: Ongoing trade tensions and supply-chain issues have hurt STMicro’s Personal Electronics. The company is leveraging its broad portfolio to target wearables and gaming accessories. It also has numerous smartphone design wins relating to motion sensors, wireless charging, display controllers and secure microcontrollers.

Segment revenues

  1. Automotive and Discrete Group (ADG): Q4 2022 revenue jumped 38.4% YoY to $1,696 million helped by growth in both automotive and power discrete segments.
  2. Analog, MEMS and Sensors Group (AMS): Q4 2022 revenue increased 7% YoY to $1,339 million with growth in analog, MEMS and imaging segments.
  3. Microcontrollers and Digital ICs Group (MDG): Q4 2022 revenue rose 29.1% YoY to $1,383 million helped by growth in both microcontrollers and RF communications segments.
  • Forecast: Q1 2023 net revenue is expected to be around $4.1 billion, a decrease of 5.1% QoQ, plus or minus 350 basis points. For FY2023, revenue is forecast to rise 4%-10% YoY to $16.8 billion-$17.8 billion with the primary growth expected from the Automotive and Industrial sectors.
  • Demand and supply: Although the demand for automotive and industrial products was high in Q4 2022, supply-chain issues still posed a hiccup with continuing shortages and capacity constraints. At the end of Q4 2022, inventory was $2.58 billion compared with $1.97 billion in the year-ago quarter. Day’s sales of inventory at Q4-end were 101 days compared with 91 days in the year-ago quarter. The Automotive segment saw an unprecedented demand across all topographies driven by increasing semiconductor and inventory replenishment. For Q1 2023, backlog is expected to be higher than that in Q1 2022.
  • Capital spending and investment: Capital spending in Q4 2022 was $920 million, compared with $548 million in the year-ago quarter. The company is planning to invest about $4.0 billion, of which 80% is mainly targeted towards increasing 300mm wafer production. The company is continuing to ramp up SiC front-end device production in Catania and Singapore with increased back-end manufacturing capacity in Morocco and China.


STMicro is benefitting from strong customer demand and continues to grow despite the difficult economic conditions. The collaboration with Soitec to produce Soitec’s SmartSiC technology for future 200mm SiC substrates will further adhere to SiC growth in EVs. With the increase in the production capacity of wafers and the growing adoption of EVs, STMicro will soon be one of the top players in the automotive space. STMicro is expected to be exposed to additional growth opportunities as it gains more exposure in GaN, RF, Sensing and IoT. Material shortages, supply disruptions and weak macro conditions may likely pose as consumer and personal market disturbances.

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Despite Global Component Shortages, Qualcomm Dec Quarter Revenues Hit New High of $10.7 Billion

Qualcomm recorded a very strong December quarter with revenues of $10.7 billion, an increase of 30% YoY. The company had a record QCT quarter despite component shortages and foundry capacity not being able to keep up with demand. Qualcomm was able to prioritize high-end Snapdragon sales, which come with higher profitability and less impact from shortages than mid- and low-end mobile handsets. The company was also able to increase supplies from its major foundry partners by dual-sourcing key products. Qualcomm’s QCT division’s non-handset revenues contributed 33% of its total revenues during the quarter. Its diversification strategy is working.

Counterpoint Research - Q4 2021 (FY Q1 2022) - Qualcomm Revenues Performance Analysis

Quarter highlights:

  • Handsets saw revenues of $6 billion and a 60% YoY growth for Snapdragon chipsets within Android. Qualcomm is clearly showing it is not reliant on Apple. The shift to 5G in China, NAM and EU has helped. Additionally, Huawei volumes are now split between some of Qualcomm’s premium customers such as Honor, Xiaomi, OPPO and vivo. This quarter, flagships will begin hitting the market with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 flagship mobile platform. The next Samsung Galaxy flagship will be announced in the coming week. Qualcomm has nailed the launch periods of its flagship Snapdragon chipsets to hit Chinese New Year and the year-end holiday season with refreshes.
  • RF front-end revenues were $1.1 billion, up 25% YoY. New designs with ultraBAW tech will be launched in the market. At its most basic, it is a new technology for above 3GHz which has improved power amplifiers and better envelope tracking, helping efficiency. This work is difficult and costly. OEMs are able to take this solution and improve both performance and time-to-market. Virtually all OEMs using the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 also design in Qualcomm’s RF front-end.
  • Automotive revenues were $256 million, small relative to the handset business but grew 21% and are ripe with opportunity. Qualcomm has been leading the digital cockpit and infotainment space partnering with Alps Alpine. These solutions include safety, comfort and entertainment solutions like e-mirrors, next-gen input/output devices integrated into door trims, ceiling display(s) and sound zones that project sound individually to each car occupant. The newer and larger story is Qualcomm’s entrance into ADAS (advanced driver assistance systems). Qualcomm made a large (pending) acquisition of Arriver (which is wholly owned by Veoneer) and will partner to deploy deep-learning algorithms for vision perception with a full suite of full-vision functions, among other innovations, combining Arriver’s next-gen ‘Vision Perception’ software with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Ride Vision System. During CES, Renault announced it had chosen Qualcomm for the entire suite. GM and BMW are also in the ADAS pipeline. Qualcomm dropped a stat of the potential of up to $30 of 5G RF content revenues per vehicle.
  • IoT revenues were $1.5 billion and consumer, edge networking and industrial verticals all saw 30% or higher growth. The opportunities here include the convergence of mobile with new FWA (fixed wireless access) solutions. Verizon and T-Mobile alone have secured over 800,000 FWA subscribers. Qualcomm is aggressively spending to diversify into the IoT space. Robotics saw a 50% increase in launches and design wins include the Amazon Astro. Qualcomm is also investing in solutions for retail IoT (think digital customer loyalty cards, gesture displays, digitized shelves, biometric payments and smart parking). Qualcomm continues to chip away at the PC space. Windows on Snapdragon always-on-always-connected devices have seen slow adoption. But there are now many more OEMs coming into the space as people adapt to remote work and learning. Qualcomm’s acquisition of NUVIA, a CPU and design company, is a large investment in creating breakthrough PC experiences. VR, AR and the metaverse are still being defined. However, when this becomes meaningful and tangible, Qualcomm is supplying two of the major front-runners with the deepest pockets — Meta and Microsoft.

Counterpoint Research - Q4 2021 (FY Q1 2022) - Qualcomm Segment Revenues Performance Analysis.png

  • Qualcomm is confident that shortages will improve through 2022. Qualcomm’s supply has not met demand, but the situation is improving. To help, Qualcomm has increased its chip supplies by dual-sourcing from its key high-end foundry partners Samsung Foundry and TSMC.
  • Outlook is strong: The company is guiding to $10.2 billion – $11 billion in revenues. QCT guidance is $8.7 billion – $9.3 billion. There may be a slight tailwind of improving component supplies, lessening business risks due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and multiple handset OEMs launching products with 5G Snapdragons.
  • Like many companies, Qualcomm is adding in a ‘Corporate Responsibility Report’ to detail what it is doing to integrate sustainability, respect for human rights, and products that are purposeful and enable life-changing experiences. Some 2025 goals:
    • Reduce absolute Scope 1 and 2 GHG emissions by 50% by 2030. Reach net-zero global GHG emissions for Scopes 1, 2 and 3 by 2040.
    • Reduce power consumption by 10% in Snapdragon Mobile Platform products (given equivalent features).
    • Increase representation of women and underrepresented minorities in leadership roles by 15%.

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Qualcomm Diversification Strategy is Working

New Qualcomm CEO Cristiano Amon held his first earnings conference call with a great first quarter at the helm. Qualcomm is best known for its Snapdragon mobile phone chips. However, the quarter’s highlight was the growth of other divisions — RF front-end, automotive and IoT. These three divisions are expected to deliver $10 billion in revenue during 2021 and grow over 80% YoY, which is 1.6 times faster than Qualcomm’s mainstay Snapdragon chips. These results were set in motion years ago by former CEO Steve Mollenkopf. It was not long ago that Qualcomm was in the midst of courtroom battles with governments and customers, and also saw a hostile takeover attempt. Today, because of its focus and leadership in 5G, there are growing, new business units that are taking the pressure off the mobile chips and licensing business.

Other takeaways from Qualcomm’s quarter ended June 27:

  • Qualcomm expects it will become the largest RF front-end supplier by revenue this year. The joint ventures and investments made years ago are paying off. A modem-to-antenna system becomes more important in 5G due to the increased complexities. Most of Qualcomm’s 5G SoC customers are choosing the company’s RF front-end systems.
  • Impressive quarter for the latest high-end Snapdragon, the Snapdragon 888. Its design wins increased more than 20% QoQ.
  • Further, the company noted the strength of its high-end 8-series mobile platform’s momentum. More than half of the 5G smartphone design wins are taking the high-end 8-series route. This is partly because high-end/high-margin smartphones were prioritized due to component shortages. Despite this, it was a solid quarter for the 8-series. Qualcomm’s customer base is growing here.
  • Multi-sourcing strategies have helped. Qualcomm has multi-sourced the production of the 778G between Samsung and TSMC. The company says it is on track to materially improve supply by the end of 2021.
  • Qualcomm has 155 5G license agreements, up 33% QoQ. It expects 5G handset sales in 2021 to land between 450 million and 550 million.
  • On its fourth generation of mmWave, Qualcomm continues to lead in the 5G mmWave space. To date, it has mainly seen volumes in the US and Japan. However, there are over 180 mobile operators in the world investing in 5G mmWave. The key country to watch is China. China is expected to have a limited 5G mmWave launch ready for the 2022 Winter Olympic Games. The scale China would bring to mmWave would help other countries and regions roll out the technology more aggressively.
  • IoT revenues grew 83% to $1.4 billion. The growth was fueled by industrial platforms and consumer EDGE networking hardware.
  • Qualcomm’s automotive division has grown to a $1 billion per quarter business. These products include digital cockpit and cellular vehicle-to-everything (C-V2X) solutions, automotive telematics, and connectivity platforms. Qualcomm is riding the wave of more connected cars and more infotainment systems being added to cars.
  • There are other areas with rich potential. They are in the development stages and seldom attract as much attention as mobile chips:
    • Qualcomm is in a good position with 5G mobile XR, PC-tethered XR and ‘boundless XR’. The company is a supplier to key XR OEMs with its Snapdragon XR2 platform and Snapdragon X55 5G modem – RF system. As XR grows, Qualcomm is positioned to grow with it.
    • Qualcomm is riding the wave of increased wearables growth. With Google and Samsung teaming up and hardware performance leaps continuing, there will be better diversification of smartwatches. Expect more optimized designs for children, seniors, sports/fitness, enterprise/B2B and fashion.
    • As mobile networks become virtualized, flexible and disaggregated, Qualcomm has solutions for 5G RAN platforms, including those for small cells.
    • Qualcomm will be able to ride the growth of 5G mobile gaming. The mobile gaming experience is vastly improving with 5G due to its better reliability and lower latency. Qualcomm Elite Gaming offers quick touch with 20% improvement on input response, supports over one billion shades of color, and is available on Android streaming platforms.

As chip shortages continue, demand will be stronger than supply in all of Qualcomm’s business units. 2021 continues to look very promising for Qualcomm’s Snapdragon SoCs for smartphones, as well as for all of the other growing business units.

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