Low-Loss Materials for 5G and 6G 2024-2034

Fifth-generation telecommunication technology, 5G, is more than a faster mobile experience to stream movies. It enables a universal connection between devices from automotive to remote robots. As profitable business models and killer applications start to emerge, 5G is one of the fastest growth markets, which IDTechEx forecasts to hit over US$842bn in 2033 and contribute trillions in annual connectivity boost to global GDP.
The most revolutionary aspect of the 5G network relies on high frequency 5G technologies, i.e. mmWave 5G, which utilize the spectrum from 26 GHz up to 40 GHz. At such high frequencies, many technologies and devices are facing challenges such as significant transmission loss, higher power usage needing more efficient power supply, and excess heat generation. Transmission loss is a pain point for both 5G antennas and radio frequency integrated circuits. For low frequency 5G, i.e. sub-6 GHz 5G, due to the high data transfer speed, reducing signal loss is also desirable.
Figure 1: Overview of challenges, trends and innovations for mmWave 5G, source: IDTechEx
With the future rise of mmWave 5G, low-loss materials will experience rapid growth and play an increasingly important role. In this report, we survey the landscape of the low-loss materials and benchmark their performance by five key factors, i.e. dielectric constant (Dk), dissipation factor (Df), moisture absorption, cost and manufacturability. Low-loss materials will not only be used as a substrate for RF components or for the PCB, but also within advanced packages. One strong packaging trend is antenna in package (AiP); as telecom technology goes higher in frequency towards mmWave 5G, the size of the antenna elements will shrink such that the arrays can be fitted into the package itself. This integration will also help shorten the RF paths and thus minimize the transmission losses. AiP will need low-loss materials for the substrates, redistribution layers, electromagnetic interference (EMI) shielding, mold underfill (MUF) materials, and more.
Figure 2: Scope of the low-loss materials covered in the report, source: IDTechEx
We highlight promising low-loss materials for 5G devices. This includes:
  • Low-loss thermoset materials: thermoset materials dominate the market for 3G/4G network devices. However, the high Dk and Df restrict their use in mmWave 5G. We focus on the strategies and R&D effort from key materials suppliers to reduce the Dk and Df for these materials
  • Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE): one of the most common materials for high-frequency applications such as automotive radar systems, high speed/high frequency (HS/HF) board and connectors
  • Liquid crystal polymers (LCP): it has been adapted to make flexible board for smartphone antennas. The market will continue to grow and expand into other applications
  • Low temperature co-fired ceramic (LTCC): the low Df and wide range of Dk for LTCC will accelerate the use of LTCC based components such as compact high frequency filters
  • Others: in order to optimise the performance for 5G systems, a variety of materials will be used, such as hydrocarbons, poly (p-phenylene ether) (PPE or PPO), and glass. Those alternative materials will take over a large share of the low-loss 5G materials market
Additionally, though the 6G spectrum is years from being allocated, research institutions and materials suppliers are already exploring the material requirements needed to meet the next generation of telecommunication technologies. This report explores the approaches to achieve even lower Df/Dk and the potential 6G applications, like reconfigurable intelligent surfaces (RIS).
Ten-year granular forecasts focusing on low-loss materials area and revenue for 5G devices are presented in this report, with over five forecast lines. The forecasts are segmented by:
  • Frequency: sub-6 GHz 5G and mmWave 5G
  • Market applications: low-loss materials for infrastructure, smartphone and customer premises equipment (CPE).
  • Materials type: exploring the evolution of low-loss materials for both sub-6GHz 5G and mmWave 5G
Figure 3: Forecast and growth rate of low-loss materials for 5G, source: IDTechEx
Based on materials trends, we forecast the low-loss materials revenue for 5G devices from 2024 to 2034. The total market will hit US$2.1 billion USD by 2034. The report contains a comprehensive analysis of different low-loss materials from different perspectives such as performance, technology trends, potential, and bottlenecks for large scale deployment. Importantly, the report presents an unbiased analysis of primary data gathered via our interviews with players across the supply chain, and it builds on our large database of 5G infrastructure and user equipment data.
Source: idtechex.com