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With the advent of 5G, PCB, the mother of electronic products, faces new challenges
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With the advent of 5G, PCB, the mother of electronic products, faces new challenges

In 2019, the news of 5G will be heard constantly. Either carriers will start large-scale testing, or terminal manufacturers will release 5G phones. Recently, the official launch of 5G service for the public in South Korea has announced the opening of 5G commercial use. The commercial use of 5G will bring unlimited market opportunities to upstream and downstream industries. As a key interconnect component for the assembly of electronic parts, how will PCB(printed circuit board) share in the 5G market? Is the technical requirement of 5G on PCB unattainable? Whether the domestic PCB enterprises can take the opportunity of 5G to realize the curve overtaking?

5G will provide a huge market for PCBS

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

It is understood that every 1 yuan PCB can support the development of 30 yuan terminal products. The 5G era provides a huge market and opportunity for PCB industry. It is estimated that the direct output 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 output economic benefits will be 1.2 trillion yuan, 6.3 trillion yuan and 10.6 trillion yuan respectively.

5G, from the construction of communication networks, to terminals, and then to derivative application scenarios, will put forward a large demand for PCB. Yang Zhicheng, chairman of Shennan Circuit Co., LTD., said that in 5G wireless base stations, bearer networks, transmission networks, core network hardware facilities, PCB hardware applications will increase greatly, such as 5G radio frequency board, backplane, high-speed network board, server motherboard, microwave board, power board, etc. Qu Dingshi, marketing manager of Shenzhen Chongda Circuit Technology Co., LTD., also said that with the upgrading of communication technology, from 4G to 5G, the quantity and price of PCBS needed in communication base stations are rising. Due to the high-frequency microwave characteristics of 5G, the base station density is higher than that of 4G base stations. At the same time, the processing frequency, data transmission and processing speed of various devices are much higher than 4G era. These core master equipment, transmission equipment, antenna/RF equipment put a very high demand for high frequency and high speed board, the unit price is higher than 4G base station PCB. It is estimated that in a single base station, the PCB demand of 5G base station is twice that of 4G base station. In addition, 5G terminal devices, such as mobile phones and smartwatches, also need to be updated with communication technology, and the PCB demand for this part is much greater than the infrastructure part.

It is predicted that the total value of 4G Acer station PCB is about 5492 yuan. Global 4G base station PCB market space is about 5 billion yuan/year ~9 billion yuan/year, corresponding CCL(copper foil substrate) is about 1 billion yuan/year ~2 billion yuan/year. The PCB value of 5G Acer station is about 15,104 yuan/station. In the peak year, the PCB demand brought by the construction of 5G base station is about 21 billion yuan/year ~24 billion yuan/year, and the corresponding CCL market space is about 8 billion yuan.


5G requires an overall improvement in PCB technology

5G not only brings opportunities to PCB industry, but also puts forward higher and more stringent requirements for technology. Its indexes in speed, integration, heat dissipation, frequency and multilayer are much higher than 4G.

Yang said full spectrum intervention, Massive MIMO (antenna array) and ultra-dense networks will be the core technologies to realize 5G networks. Accordingly, the technical challenge to PCB is also put forward. First of all, the structure and function of the base station RF unit and antenna have undergone great changes, which are mainly manifested as the increase of the number of RF unit channels (from 8 channels to 64 channels) and the increase of the corresponding PCB area. 

The structure form of 4G base station equipment RRU plus antenna unit changes to 5G AAU structure (integrating RRU and antenna functions), and the corresponding PCB integration degree is higher. Secondly, in order to achieve ultra-dense network coverage, in addition to 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 applied. Therefore, the demand for high-frequency PCB used by 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, mesh board, backplane, server and other data transmission equipment will use higher-grade high-speed copper-clad material. "These technical challenges require domestic PCB enterprises to grasp the trend of technology and market at all times and take the road of differentiation in order to build unique competitiveness." Yang Zhicheng said.

In addition, thermal management of PCB products may become particularly important in the future. "Not only is it suitable for high-frequency devices, but also the heat dissipation requirements due to high power and high power density. The application of new high thermal conductivity materials, special heat dissipation structural PCB needs will emerge." Chen Xingnong, chairman of Shenzhen Mutai Lai Circuit Technology Co., LTD., said, "Big data, cloud computing and other needs of the server is high level, high reliability of the multilayer board; New technologies such as the Internet of Things, intelligent manufacturing, autonomous driving and so on, there will be some special structure, special technical requirements of PCB demand, may use special materials, but may also be different from the traditional PCB special structure, or production accuracy requirements far beyond the general level of PCB."

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