With 5G Coming, PCB Is Facing New Challenges

Entering 2019, the news of 5G will be endless, either the operators start large-scale testing, or terminal manufacturers release 5G phones. The commercial use of 5G will bring unlimited market opportunities to the upstream and downstream industries. As a key interconnection used for assembling electronic components, how will PCB(printed circuit board) share a share in the 5G market? Are the technical requirements for PCB raised by 5G unattainable? Domestic PCB enterprises can borrow the opportunity of 5G to achieve curve overtaking?

 

5G provides a huge market for PCB

 

Known as the "mother of electronic products", PCB not only provides electrical connections for electronic components, but also carries the digital and analog signal transmission, power supply, radio frequency and microwave signal transmission and reception and other business functions of electronic equipment. The vast majority of electronic equipment and products require PCB.

 

It is understood that each 1 yuan PCB can support the development of 30 yuan terminal products. The era of 5G has provided a huge market and opportunity for the PCB industry. It is estimated that the direct economic benefits of 5G in 2020, 2025 and 2030 will be 484 billion yuan, 3.3 trillion yuan and 6.3 trillion yuan respectively, while the indirect economic benefits will be 1.2 trillion yuan, 6.3 trillion yuan and 10.6 trillion yuan respectively.

 

From the construction of communication network to terminal and derivative application scenarios, 5G has put forward a large demand for PCB. In the hardware facilities of 5G wireless base station, carrier network, transmission network and core network, the application of PCB hardware will be greatly increased, such as 5G rf board, backboard, high-speed network board, server motherboard, microwave board, power board and so on. With the upgrading of communication technology from 4G to 5G, the quantity and price of PCB required in the communication base station will rise. Due to the high-frequency microwave characteristics of 5G, the base station density is higher than that of 4G base stations. Meanwhile, the processing frequency, data transmission and processing speed of all kinds of devices are much higher than 4G era. These core main equipment, transmission equipment, antenna/rf equipment put forward very high demand for high frequency high-speed board, unit price is higher than the PCB of 4G base station. It is estimated that in a single base station, 5G base station requires twice as much PCB as 4G base station. In addition, 5G terminal devices, such as mobile phones and smart watches, also need to be updated in step with communication technology, which requires much more PCB than infrastructure.

 

According to the forecast, the total PCB value of 4G acer station is about 5,492 yuan. Worldwide PCB market space for 4G base stations is about 5 billion yuan/year ~9 billion yuan/year, corresponding to CCL(copper foil substrate) about 1 billion yuan/year ~2 billion yuan/year. The PCB value of 5G acer station is about 15,104 yuan/station. In peak years, PCB demand brought by 5G base station construction is about 21 billion yuan/year ~24 billion yuan/year, corresponding to about 8 billion yuan of CCL market space.


5G requires comprehensive improvement of PCB technology

 

While bringing opportunities to the PCB industry, 5G also puts forward higher and more stringent requirements for technology, and its indicators in speed, integration, heat dissipation, frequency and multilayer are all improved a lot compared with 4G.

 

Full-spectrum interference, Massive MIMO and ultra-dense networks will be at the heart of 5G networks. Accordingly, to PCB also raised technical challenge. Firstly, the structure and function of the radio frequency unit and antenna of the base station have changed greatly, which is mainly reflected by the increase in the number of channels of the radio frequency unit (from 8 channels to 64 channels), corresponding to the increase in PCB area. The structure form of 4G base station equipment RRU plus antenna unit changes into 5G AAU structure (integrating RRU and antenna functions), corresponding to higher PCB integration. Secondly, in order to achieve ultra-dense network coverage, except for the spectrum applications below 6GHz in 5G spectrum, millimeter wave spectrum resources such as 28G and 39G, which are used for hot spot coverage and large-capacity high-speed transmission, will be widely used. Therefore, the demand for high-frequency PCB used in high-frequency microwave base stations will increase. Finally, under the network architecture of 5G independent networking, in order to meet the technical requirements of high-speed transmission, PCB required by baseband unit, network board, backboard, server and other data transmission equipment will use higher-level high-speed copper clad plate material. These technical challenges require domestic PCB enterprises to grasp the technology and market trend at all times and take the road of differentiation in order to build unique competitiveness.

In addition, thermal management of PCB products may be particularly important in the future. Not only has the reason which ADAPTS the high frequency device, but also has the high power, the high power density brings the heat dissipation request. The application of new high thermal conductivity materials, special heat dissipation structure PCB requirements will appear. The servers required by big data and cloud computing are multi-layer boards with high level data and high reliability. In new technology fields such as the Internet of things, intelligent manufacturing, and autonomous driving, there will be some PCB requirements with special structures and special technical requirements, which may require special materials, but may also be special structures different from traditional PCB, or PCB with far higher manufacturing precision requirements than the general level.

 

In-depth understanding of customer needs to take the road of differentiation

 

With the rapid development of electronic information industry, PCB industry keeps growing. Global PCB output increased from more than 40 billion us dollars in 2008 to 60 billion us dollars in 2018. China's PCB industry share in the world has also changed dramatically, from less than 10% in 2000 to 30% in 2018 and more than 50% in 2018.

In the past 10 years, the focus of PCB industry has been shifting to Asia, and China has become the world's largest PCB industry base. 5G is a rare opportunity, seize this opportunity, domestic PCB enterprises can catch up with and surpass the international big factory in the scale, technology, management and other aspects.

 

This year on January 2, set by the ministry of industry and information technology conditions of the printed circuit board industry norms and the printed circuit board industry standards bulletin management interim measures ", referring to PCB enterprises are encouraged to strengthen top-level design, promote automation equipment upgrade, promote the automation level, such as automation, information and intelligent throughout the design, production, management and service of each link; Enterprises are encouraged to actively carry out intelligent manufacturing, reduce operating costs, shorten product production cycle and improve production efficiency. In the era of 5G, PCB enterprises should keep pace with The Times. Enhance internal strength in research and development, production and management, increase research and investment in product technology, and constantly meet new requirements of customers and products.

Different from OEM of standard products, PCB belongs to customized products serving downstream customers and is highly "customized". We should have a deeper understanding of customers' needs. 5G is a technology that develops and innovates from time to time. If it fails to keep up with customers' demands and conduct more thorough and detailed research on products with them, it will be difficult to make progress with the market. Technical communication with raw material enterprises should be strengthened. In the era of 5G, many products have high requirements for raw materials and production processes. Only by establishing a good raw material supply system in China, can we steadily and rapidly make greater and stronger achievements in the field of 5G PCB. Companies that manufacture printed circuit boards for communications equipment need to study high-speed material applications, signal integrity, and signal simulation. At the same time, need to carry out high-speed material technology research, the corresponding equipment upgrade, in order to meet the requirements of circuit board machining accuracy.