GaAs Wafers and the Future of 5G


May 3, 2021

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Different types of wafers have unique advantages and disadvantages. The goal is to find which one is best for the function you want your device to complete. Will that phone run better and faster with a germanium wafer? Will that test be more efficient with GaAs reclaim wafers? What about that vehicle and a silicon wafer? With the powerful 5G cellular network being introduced to the world in 2019, mobile devices need a semiconductor that can handle the faster signal speed. So, which one is it, you ask? The GaAs wafer – which is able to outperform silicon wafers in some of the most important ways. It truly could be the future of the semiconductor market.  

What is a GaAs Wafer?  

GaAs is short for gallium arsenide, which is a semiconductor compound of arsenic and gallium. While the first element of the compound, arsenic, was discovered all the way back in 1250 AD by Albertus Magnus, gallium was not known until Paul-Emile Lecoq de Boisbaudran made the discovery in 1875. While the revelation of the gallium arsenide compound was a true breakthrough for technology, no one really knew what to do with it at first. There were numerous tests and experiments completed, but there was no use for it at the time of discovery due to the limited technological advances.  Today, we know that GaAs transistors can be used for cell phones and other types of wireless communicating.  

GaAs vs. Silicon

While silicon wafers are typically seen as the standard for semiconductors, the GaAs wafer has a few extra tricks up its sleeve, including its superior electronic properties. Some of the most noteworthy characteristics to take note of about GaAs are:

  • Electrons move much faster while consuming less power than silicon
  • Can function at microwave frequencies
  • More flexible and lightweight
  • Has a much higher thermal stability than silicon
  • It has a resistance to radiation
5g GaAs Reclaim Wafers

The History of Gs

5G is still relatively new, and we’re just beginning to get a true feel for its connectivity power. Since this is already the fifth generation of mobile networks, let’s take a quick look back at the path to this new leap in technology.  


While 1G was first introduced in 1979 by Nippon Telegraph and Telephone, it was not revealed in the United States until Ameritech did so in 1983. This was the very beginning of mobile network communication with the simple delivery of analog voice, but there were a lot of static noises, and there was no roaming support.


Upgrading a bit from the services provides by 1G, 2G greatly improved the sound quality of calls and download speeds while adding the much-needed ability to encrypt phone calls. This was truly the beginning of what we see in our lives today, as 2G technology included the capability to send text messages while also introducing early stages of what could be used for smartphones.    


While 3G was first used in Japan in 2001, we didn’t truly start noticing the capability of what it could handle until the iPhone was released in 2007. With improved data transferring and internet browsing capabilities, 3G was a huge step forward for mobile networks.  


As strange as it sounds, when the world first saw 4G, it wasn’t really 4G. The ITU Radiocommunication Sector set a minimum speed of 12.5 Mbps for 4G, but that number still wasn’t quite achievable yet. However, it allowed LTE to be called 4G if there was enough improvement over previous 3G standards.  Much like the previous leaps from generation to generation, 4G brought a wide variety of improvements over its predecessors, such as faster internet browsing and high-quality streaming.  

GaAs and 5G  

With the use of 5G going into full effect, don’t expect GaAs wafers to be completely overtaking silicon anytime soon, but you can expect the race to get a little closer. To properly implement 5G, you need a wafer that can support the signal speed. Otherwise, you won’t be reaching the capacity of what 5G is capable of.  While 5G is our “next generation” of a faster and more efficient mobile network, GaAs can be seen as the “next generation” of integrated circuits. This is mainly due to its high bandgap, which drastically outperforms silicon.  With the advancements of mobile networks continuing rapidly, it’s expected that the overall market for semiconductors could pass a whopping $20 trillion in five years. If we look at only GaAs wafers, the market was at $3.8 billion in 2020, with an expectation for that to reach around $22 billion five years from now. The only real issue at this point is the price of GaAs wafers, which is quite a bit more expensive than the silicon alternative. That’s not expected to last, however.   Since more and more computer chips will be made with GaAs wafers to meet demand, the price to manufacture them will continue to drop. Eventually, we could see a world where GaAs wafers as just as inexpensive as silicon with more application advantages.  

What Are the Benefits of 5G?  

Probably the most noteworthy benefit you’ll notice from 5G is the speed, which is expected to be up to 100 times faster than 4G LTE – 10 Gbps! Some of the other advantages include:

  • Around 1,000 times more capacity
  • Latency so fast that it’s actually faster than what humans can visually process, meaning we can control devices remotely almost in real time
  • Much more bandwidth

What About Those 5G Rumors?  

The development of 5G has come with its fair share of odd rumors and myths, with one of them being that 5G networks spread COVID-19. While this myth has gained a lot of traction in the past year, health concerns around 5G actually began before the COVID-19 pandemic. Some people believed that 5G would microwave our brains due to its higher frequencies. Both of these have been easily debunked.

GaAs Reclaim Wafers

Looking for GaAs or GaAs Reclaim Wafers?

For the best integrated circuits, you need the highest quality wafers, and that’s exactly what the experts at Wafer World provide. Whatever your need may be, our wafers are sure to do the job, including for the use of harnessing the power of 5G networks. If you have any questions about our products or would like to request a quote, contact us today!

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