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5G is Coming, PCB Industry Face New Opportunities Challenges

2020-04-17 15:03:04

Entering 2019, 5G news is endless, the new era of network technology requires the development of communication technology. A new generation of wireless mobile communication networks, 5G, is expected due to its leading role in the interconnection between the Internet of Things. The commercial use of 5G will bring unlimited market opportunities to upstream downstream industries. 

The PCB only provides electrical connections for electronic components, but also carries digital analog signal transmission, power, RF microwave signal transmission reception, other business functions of electronic equipment. With the advent of 5G, what are the demands requirements for PCB circuit boards?

High frequency high speed PCB will benefit significantly in 5G

At present, the communication field is the largest downstream of PCB. According to Prismark data, in 2017, the global PCB production value in the communication electronics field reached US $ 17.8 billion, accounting for 30.3% of the global PCB industry’s total output value, its proportion has continued to increase over the years. In 2017, the electronics output value of the PCB downstream communications electronics market was US $ 567 billion, it is expected to maintain a compound growth rate of 2.9% in the next 5 years. The PCB requirements of communication equipment are mainly high-layer boards (8-16 layers PCB for about 35.18%), 8.95% PCB need assembly.

The communication network construction itself has four application areas for the PCB board: wireless network, transmission network, data communication, fixed-line broadband. In the initial stage of 5G construction, the increase in demand for PCBs was directly reflected in wireless networks transmission networks, the demand for PCB backplanes, high-frequency PCB boards, high-speed multilayer printed circuit boards was greater.

In the middle late stages of 5G construction, with the accelerated penetration of 5G high-bandwidth business applications, such as the deployment of mobile high-definition video, car networking, AR / VR other business applications, it will also have a greater impact on the data processing exchange capabilities of data centers. It is expected that after 2020, domestic data centers will be upgraded the current 10G 40G to 100G 400G ultra-large data centers. At that time, the demand for high-speed multilayer electronic circuit boards in the data communications field will grow rapidly.

5G construction drives PCB volume price

5G networks have the characteristics of high speed, large capacity, low latency. In addition to providing great convenience to daily life, 5G continues to penetrate the Internet of Things many industrial fields. Diversify business needs to achieve a true “Internet of Everything.” Compared with 4G, the user experience speed (0.1 ~ 1Gbps), mobility (500 + Km / h), peak rate (Tensof Gbps), end-to-end delay (1ms level) under 5G coverage are 10 times that of 4G The traffic density (tens of Tbps / Km2) is 100 times that of 4G, its comprehensive performance will far exceed the 4G era.

5G bears many high-performance indicators, needs to meet the needs of differentiated performance indicators in diverse application scenarios. The performance required by different application scenarios is different. the perspective of the mobile Internet the Internet of Things, the technical scenarios will mainly include continuous wide area coverage, high-capacity hotspots, low power consumption large connections, low latency high reliability.

The arrival of 5G will have a huge impact on the communication PCB industry. In summary, on the one hand, it is the increase in “quantity”, on the other hand, the increase in technical difficulty leads to the increase in “price”.

Features of 5G




The number of 5G macro base stations is expected to exceed 5 million, the number of micro base stations is expected to exceed 10 million. In the 5G era, a “macro station + small station” networking model will be adopted. The transmission distance of 5G base stations using millimeter waves is very short, the coverage capability is greatly reduced. In order to reduce costs, the corresponding solution is to use a “micro base station” with low power. The cost of the micro base station is low, the radiated power is more uniform, which will become the mainstream technology in the future. Although 5G has a higher frequency in the higher spectrum, it has a smaller coverage compared to the lower spectrum of 4G. In order to achieve 4G coverage, the total number of 5G macro base stations will reach 1.2-1.5 times that of 4G base stations, which is expected to exceed 5 million.

The structure of 5G base stations has undergone major changes. In the era of 5G communication, high-frequency high-speed application solutions such as 5G high-frequency communication mobile phones, millimeter-wave technology, 802.11ad high-speed WIFI, etc. have gradually become new demands in the market. Under this premise, for underlying electronic components such as PCB FPC, etc. The demand for upgrading has also changed, the upgrade evolution of new processes materials has become a determined trend for the electronics industry in the future.

Technologies of 5G

The 5G base station structure was upgraded a BBU + RRU in the 4G era to a DU + CU + AAU three-level structure. 4G base station structure: BBU (Base Band Unit) + RRU (Remote Radio Unit) + antenna feeder system. In the 4G era, standard macro base stations consist of a baseband processing unit BBU, a radio frequency processing unit RRU, an antenna. The RRU is connected to the antenna through a feeder. 5G base station structure: DU + CU + AAU. With the increase of 5G network capacity the application of Massive MIMO, 5G base stations combine RRU antenna feed system into AAU (Active Antenna Unit). Due to the large number of 5G antennas, this can reduce the loss caused by the feeder to the signal. It can also reduce costs to a certain extent. The 5G base station disassembles the BBU into DU (Distributed Unit) CU (Centralized Unit).

Improve PCB area of AAU

The number of AAU antennas with Massive MIMO technology has greatly increased. The number of antennas may reach 64, 128 even higher. The antennas of 5G base stations will be integrated on the PCB, the corresponding area of the PCB will increase. At the same time, the number of components such as filters is directly proportional to the number of antennas, the increase in the number of components will further increase the PCB area of the AAU.

The 5G frequency band is high, AAU’s demand for high-frequency board materials has increased. 3G / 4G networks are deployed below the 3GHz frequency band. The mainstream global 5G network frequency bands are selected in the 3GHz, 4.8GHz, mmWave bands above 6GHz, such as 28GHz, 30GHz, 77GHz. As the front-end receiving device of the base station, the antenna radio frequency require very low dielectric transmission loss extremely high thermal conductivity. The loss heat conduction requirements of the antenna radio-frequency high-frequency materials are higher than the application requirements of other structures of the main equipment.

The higher the frequency band, the higher the standard for the parameters of transmission rate dielectric loss, more high-frequency materials are required. The materials in the frequency band above 6GHz also need to adapt to the special substrate of the millimeter wave frequency band. The amount of high-frequency PCB materials required for different frequency bands is different, the unit value is about 1.5-2 times higher than that of FR-4 PCB boards for 4G applications.

Large 5G macro base station increase PCB Quantity

According to CCID Consulting’s forecast data, the number of 5G macro base stations is expected to reach 4.75 million in 2026, which is about 1.45 times the 3.28 million 4G base stations at the end of 2017. The number of supporting small base stations is about twice that of macro base stations. About 9.5 million, the total number of base stations is about 14.25 million. PCB is an indispensable electronic material in the construction of base stations. Such a large amount of base stations will generate huge PCB incremental space.

PCB industry Opportunities challenges for 5G

5G networks will raise the technical standards of printed circuit board suppliers, electronics design companies contract electronics manufacturers to achieve the higher frequencies densities, faster speeds, understanding of advanced materials their adoption required by 5G networks-all These are supported by advanced design capabilities.

At present, the world has entered the development stage of 5G. The market demand for high-speed, high-frequency, high-density, high-capacity PCBs as core components has grown rapidly. Core customers in the communications field have clearly stated that they hope that the company’s PCB products can be synchronized with downstream technologies even Advance development quickly enter the industrialization stage.

Unlike standard product OEMs, PCBs are custom products that serve downstream customers are highly “customized”. We should have a deeper understanding of customer needs. 5G is a technology that develops innovates time to time. If we cannot meet the needs of customers work with them to conduct more thorough detailed research on products, it will be difficult to make progress in the market. In the 5G era, many products have high requirements on raw materials production processes. Only by establishing a good raw material supply system in China can we stabilize rapidly achieve greater stronger achievements in the 5G PCB field.


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