(Image courtesy of Western Digital).

Skyworks Buys Out Panasonic's Filter Division

Skyworks Solutions, one of the largest makers of wireless analog chips, has taken outright control of Panasonic’s filter division, giving it more firepower to handle the growing number of frequency bands used to connect smartphones and other devices.

Last week, the company said that it was buying Panasonic’s remaining interest in the filter business, which the companies formed into a joint venture more than two years ago. In 2014, Skyworks paid $148.5 million for two-thirds ownership of the business.

The arrangement gave Skyworks access to Panasonic’s entire filter division, from the manufacturing equipment to more than 400 filter patents and applications. The business and its 590 workers developed a wide range of filters, including surface acoustic wave (SAW) and temperature-compensated SAW (TC-SAW) devices. The joint venture was headquartered in Osaka, Japan.

Now Skyworks is paying another $76.5 million for the remaining third of the venture.

In smartphones and other mobile devices, filters are responsible for tuning into specific frequency bands and blocking interference from other signals. With enough filters, devices can simultaneously communicate over Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and cellular bands used in 3G and 4G networks. As wireless technology breaks into higher frequency spectrum, the number of filters inside smartphones is steadily rising.

“Given the proliferation of frequency bands, the addition of LTE capabilities and market demand for always-on connectivity, the need for filters has never been higher,” said Liam K. Griffin, president and chief executive officer of Skyworks, in a statement.

Smartphone makers like Apple and Samsung are packing filters into devices as quickly as new frequency bands are opened. They are also gravitating toward higher performance filters, including bulk acoustic wave (BAW) and TC-SAW devices, which better shut out interference. Multiple chipmakers are placing an emphasis on filters with low insertion loss and distortion that can be produced in large quantities.

Skyworks is betting that Panasonic’s business will help it compete with large companies like Broadcom and Qorvo, which are investing in the filter market, and smaller ones like Resonant, which are testing out potentially game-changing filters that can switch between multiple frequency bands. Qualcomm is also entering the filter market in a joint venture with TDK, which the companies announced in January.

Last year, Skyworks completed a 405,000 square foot facility in Osaka to increase the joint venture's filter output. The business has produced more than two billion filters total, Skyworks said.


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