PCB Industry in the Era of 5G: Opportunities and Challenges

The benefits of 5G technology are evident, and countries worldwide are actively promoting its adoption. However, the widespread use of 5G technology may face certain challenges. Signal transmission speed is directly correlated with the frequency of radio waves, meaning higher frequencies result in faster speeds. Unfortunately, high-frequency signals also experience greater attenuation during transmission. To address these issues, the inevitable trend is the construction of large-scale data control centers and high-density base stations.

In this evolving landscape, the development of 5G technology presents both opportunities and challenges to the PCB industry. The increased demand for high-quality PCB 5G creates substantial revenue potential for manufacturers. However, more stringent product standards necessitate greater capabilities and execution from manufacturers. In this article, FS Technology will explore the impact of 5G technology development on the PCB industry, taking into account various considerations.

Driving Industrial Growth

As the cornerstone of electronics, PCB is an indispensable component in nearly all types of equipment. The advent of 5G technology has ushered in three significant changes within the communication industry: upgrades in terminal equipment, an increase in base station construction, and heightened technical demands. On one hand, these changes have led to a surge in PCB demand, and on the other hand, they have driven up the unit prices of PCBA boards.

To enhance the quality of 5G signals, the adoption of Massive MIMO technology has become inevitable. This multi-antenna technology excels in managing multipath propagation and interference suppression, but it introduces compatibility challenges for signal reception. To better align with the 5G era, major electronics manufacturers have commenced the production and upgrade of existing products to be 5G-compatible. For instance, considering mobile phones, according to statistics from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, the production of 5G-compatible mobile phones has been on the rise since the latter half of 2019, and China’s mobile phone shipments are projected to reach 574 million units in 2022.

Furthermore, because 5G employs high-frequency signals, the transmission speed is indeed rapid, but the high signal loss results in limited transmission distance. Consequently, a substantial increase in base station construction is imperative to achieve comprehensive 5G signal coverage. According to a communication industry report released by the Industrial Research Institute, the number of macrocell constructions is expected to double that of the 4G era, and the count of small base stations will increase by over tenfold compared to the previous figures.

Most importantly, 5G PCB imposes stringent requirements on technology and product quality. Firstly, hydrocarbon PCB is employed as substitute for traditional PCB, necessitating high-frequency and RF designs to control the phase of RF signals. This elevates the cost of bare boards to approximately 3000–6000 yuan per square meter, which is two to three times the cost of regular printed circuit boards. Additionally, a greater number of RF front-end components must be installed, leading to increased finished product costs. Consequently, the price of a single PCBA board is more than three times the original cost.

Challenges Faced by Manufacturers

While the development of 5G has indeed spurred an increase in PCB demand within the electronics market and subsequently driven up costs for consumers, it’s important to recognize that this surge brings both opportunities and challenges. For PCB manufacturers, these challenges stem from the heightened complexity of manufacturing and the stringent product requirements.

5G communication necessitates the use of higher frequency bands and larger bandwidths. This, in turn, implies that designers must engage in more intricate circuit layouts and employ advanced materials to ensure signal integrity during the design phase. Consequently, there’s a growing need for the creation of more densely packed, PCB multistrato. However, it’s worth noting that most manufacturers have limitations when it comes to manufacturing multi-layer boards. Even a major facility like JLCPCB can only offer Servizi di produzione di PCB up to 10 layers.

The ultimate objective behind denser circuit layouts is to accommodate more antennas and radio frequency modules. Yet, as devices operate at higher frequencies, they generate more heat. The high-density component arrangement exacerbates heat buildup, making efficient dissipation more challenging.

These are just some of the challenges that 5G PCB design and manufacturing present. Addressing these challenges necessitates manufacturers to possess greater experience, employ more advanced equipment, and embrace innovation. If you’re concerned about finding a 5G PCB manufacturer, you might consider trying the services of FS Technology. We have the capability to manufacture PCB ranging from 1 to 56 layers and offer soluzioni chiavi in mano to help you tackle all your challenges.

Impact on Made in China

As the leader in the global PCB industry, China has encountered unprecedented opportunities with the rise of 5G technology. However, beneath the data that indicates China’s PCB production accounts for over 50% of the world’s total, there are some intricate realities to consider.

Firstly, the substantial size of China’s PCB market primarily results from the mass production of a significant quantity of low-end and mid-range products, which excel in terms of cost-effectiveness. However, in advanced applications, particularly in fields like PCB ad alta frequenza, U.S. PCB manufacturers still hold dominance. These areas demand higher levels of technology and advanced manufacturing processes.

The PCB industry represents a multifaceted market segment encompassing various fields, from upstream electronic component manufacturing to midstream manufacturing and assembly. In this globally interconnected market, different countries and regions leverage their respective advantages. Take Taiwan’s TSMC as an example. It relies on advanced technology, employing a global division of labor model for R&D, manufacturing, and testing outside Taiwan, ultimately securing a leading position in chip manufacturing.

Despite facing challenges in the advanced field, Chinese PCB manufacturers are actively advancing and enhancing the 5G PCB industry. They are increasing investments in technology and continuously improving product quality, aiming to gain a larger share of the high-end market.

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