December 22, 2020
While there’s very little everyone can agree on during this tumultuous year that included a global pandemic, swirling economic uncertainty and a divisive U.S. presidential election, I think we can all agree it’s time for a CTL+ALT+DEL reset. Nobody I know will look wistfully back on 2020, although our industry appears to have weathered the storm better than most.
Our industry, the semiconductor one, is expected to grow around 5.1 percent this year and about 8.1 percent in 2021, according to the latest forecast from SIA and WSTS. While that might seem meager, not so when compared to the global economic downturn of 4.1 percent forecast in 2020 by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
While the world was adjusting to the new normal, chipmakers were exceptionally busy filling orders for chips and chipsets to support the global rollout of 5G networks and smartphones, the launch of new Wi-Fi 6/6E systems and anything tethered to a Zoom meeting. The semiconductor industry really stepped up in 2020, not only to help keep us safely connected, but safely separated through ultra-wideband (UWB) technologies used for contact tracing.
The world has added 229 million 5G subscribers since the third quarter of 2019, driving chip demand for new 5G base stations and 5G smartphones. 5G is now the fastest growing mobile technology in history, quadrupling the adoption rate of 4G.
According to IDC, the combined consumer and enterprise WLAN market grew 12 percent during the third quarter of 2020, driven by the adoption of Wi-Fi 6. Even the International Space Station is contributing to this skyrocketing growth by getting a WLAN makeover.
The new kid on the semiconductor block is UWB, which got a recent nudge from Apple and its iPhone 12 and HomePod mini launch. UWB provides extraordinary speed, reliability and accuracy to location services, including COVID-19 contact tracing/social distancing applications. With accuracy down to one or two centimeters and speeds 50x faster than GPS, UWB is helping keep athletes in the NFL, NBA and NCAA safe, as well as employees in 200-plus companies through new wearables like Kinexon’s SafeZone.
So let’s give it up for an industry that’s bucking the downward trend for 2020 and has been wearing masks for years — at least within semiconductor clean rooms. And let’s take down the rear-view mirror and set a course for a healthier and more vaccinated new year.
The three keys to resetting for 2021 are CTRL+ALT+DEL!
This article first appeared in Brent's Musings on Microwave Journal.
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