Teardown Signals Transition from GaAs to CMOS Power Amplifiers In 3G Handsets

Javelin's proprietary 3G CMOS power amplifier architecture includes input matching network, tunable bandpass filtering between each amplifier stage and an output matching network. Plus, it also integrates power regulation, bias and power control circuitry.

Although, working CMOS based 3G RF power amplifiers (PAs) were demonstrated several years ago, the transition from 2G to 3G handsets has not been that easy for CMOS. Concerns over performance have severely limited its progression in the 3G space. However, continued improvements in silicon technology and amplifier architecture have finally enabled CMOS PAs to capture 3G handset sockets. And that shift is being signaled by Samsung Galaxy Appeal.

A recent teardown of the Samsung Galaxy Appeal handset, by ABI Research, shows that it is one of the first mass produced 3G phone to ship with a high performance CMOS PA, designed and fabricated by Javelin Semiconductor. In fact, Javelin’s CMOS PAs are also powering two more Samsung smartphones, namely Galaxy Ace Plus and Galaxy S Duos. Javelin’s director of marketing Robert Wagner, said, 3G mobile handset makers in China are also utilizing Javelin’s CMOS PAs in their 3G handsets, respectively. Without giving the identity, Wagner said that the top mobile handset manufacturer in China is also using Javelin’s CMOS PAs in 3G handsets. As a result, Javelin’s CMOS PAs are now powering ten 3G mobile handsets worldwide.

Until now, according to ABI Research, the gallium arsenide (GaAs) based PAs from incumbents such as, Avago Technologies, TriQuint Semiconductor, RF Micro Devices, Skyworks Solutions, and Anadigics have not felt any real impact of CMOS. But, new products such as the Javelin J5501 (Band I) PA found in the Galaxy Appeal indicate that this performance gap has been narrowed significantly.

Jim Mielke, vice president of engineering at ABI Research, states, “Even though the CMOS PA is over 3x the die area of a typical GaAs PA (3.3 sq. mm vs. 1 sq. mm in the Appeal), the lower CMOS wafer cost, simple packaging and the added digital content with reduced test times allow the CMOS PAs to compete on cost as well as performance.” Mielke went on to add that the market should, “expect single digit market share numbers for CMOS PAs in 2013. The CMOS PA market volumes could be even higher if Qualcomm is successful with their penta-band CMOS PA they are actively presenting now.”

Per ABI Research’s teardown analysis, the product testing of the Galaxy Appeal and the Javelin J5501 provided some key information that is central to this evolving market. The teardown analysis shows that CMOS PAs match GaAs efficiency across all power levels up to 22.5 dBm with an efficiency advantage at low power levels–up to 20 percent low current. In addition, though GaAs PA die are significantly smaller than CMOS equivalents, both GaAs and CMOS PAs can be manufactured for under 40 cents.

According to Javelin, its CMOS PAs are designed to meet the output power, linearity and low noise requirements of the 3GPP UMTS standards while consuming very low current. For that, it incorporates a proprietary amplifier architecture that includes input matching network, tunable bandpass filtering between each amplifier stage and an output matching network. The CMOS PA also integrates circuitry for power regulation, bias and power control (see Figure).

Javelin offers a family of CMOS PAs covering the popular UMTS bands, including Band I (1920 to 1980 MHz), Band II (1850 to 1910 MHz), Band V (824 to 849 MHz) and Band VIII (880 to 915 MHz).

Meanwhile, enhancements to the architecture continue as Wagner sees the CMOS PA trend migrating to 4G LTE devices soon. Efforts are underway to improve peak-to-average output power capability of the CMOS PA in order to meet the peak power requirements of LTE. According to Wagner, Javelin designers have demonstrated that CMOS PA can meet power requirements of 4G LTE. Plus, it can deliver envelope tracking similar to GaAs PA. And narrowband architecture does a good job of filtering environmental noise, noted Wagner. The company is planning to demonstrate 4G CMOS PA sometimes in the second half of next year.

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Mobile App Measures Your Smartphone’s Radiation Emission

Tawkon's patent pending algorithm measures your smartphone's radiation emission

Cellphones and smartphones use RF/microwave frequencies to transmit and receive information, whether it is voice, data or video. And lately, these gadgets have become a primary mode of communication to keep you in touch with friends, business associates or relatives. Because they are so convenient to carry and use, many users have been glued to them. But, prolonged usage could bring its own set of health concerns. Yes, the more you use, the more you are exposed to radiation. And that could contribute to health problems in the long run. Although, radiation risks of cellphone usage are still being investigated, several cases have been reported in the past, wherein cumulative effect of radiation on an individual has shown to be harmful.

While FCC requires that every cellphone sold in the U.S. must be tested for specific absorption rate (SAR), which is an universal measurement for the amount of radiation being absorbed by the user, there is no tool or app that alerts you when the microwave radiation from your cellphone is high. By the way, FCC regulation requires that SAR value for cellphones must be 1.6 Watts per kilogram (W/kg). Canada’s regulation is similar to the U.S, and in Europe it is 2.0 W/kg.

Reports indicate that FCC’s SAR limit is not enough and may be outdated. Well, this number has not been updated for more than 15 years. Also, the user’s exposure to radiation depends on many parameters, such as signal strength, cell phone’s proximity to the body, frequency band, model and so on. And there is no way to know when that exposure to radiation is high.

So Israeli startup Tawkon developed a radiation detection app for your cellphone/smartphone. Initially, Tawkon’s target was Apple’s iOS based iPhones. But, Apple was not interested, so the developers tweaked it for Android based smartphones and RIM’s BlackBerrys. It warns smartphone users when the radiation levels are at a peak so that they can switch to a Bluetooth, speakerphone, or headset or take some other safety measures.

Tawkon’s radiation detection app works by collecting and extracting the internal measurements of the user’s cellphone that offers insight into radiation output. Utilizing patent pending technology, Tawkon calculates the cellphone’s radiation level and hence the user’s exposure, the SAR. According to Tawkon’s co-founder Amit Lubovsky, the radiation measuring technology has been tested by Satimo USA, an FCC certified RF lab that tracks radiation level for various types of devices with state-of-the-art equipment.

According to Satimo’s report, the average deviation between measurements made by Satimo and Tawkon was only 4.13% for the 850 MHz GSM band, 4.85% for the 900 MHz GSM band and 16% for the 900 MHz WCDMA band. This average deviation is well within the accepted standard deviation of ±30% (IEC62209, IEEE1528), asserted Lubovsky. The co-founder thinks that these results clearly confirm the effectiveness of Tawkon’s radiation detection and measurement.

Going forward, Tawkon is working on adding functionality to the Android app so that it can measure radiation levels when users are doing things other than just making a call, stated Lubovsky. And, eventually, the company may expand to other operating systems as well, including Windows Phone, he added.

Meanwhile, as new features are added on a regular basis, Tawkon is also extending the app to CDMA phones for the US market. Beta tests have been running for the last couple of months with plans to introduce the product soon.

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Software Centric Vector Signal Transceiver Signals A New Era In Instrumentation

Vector Signal Transceiver

Vector signal transceiver is a new class of instrument that combines a vector signal generator and vector signal analyzer with FPGA based real-time signal processing and control.

Early in August at the NIWeek in Ausitn, Tx., National Instruments unveiled a new class of software-designed instrumentation that combines a vector signal generator (VSG) and vector signal analyzer (VSA) with a user-programmable FPGA into a single PXI modular instrument. Called vector signal transceiver or VST, the company claims it is the world’s first software-centric architecture that represents a new era in instrumentation.

Labeled NI PXIe-5644R, the software driven VST permits engineers and scientists to use LabVIEW to tailor open, field-programmable gate array (FPGA)-based hardware for their specific needs. NI claims engineers can transform the VST into a new instrument or enhance its existing functionality using the improved NI LabVIEW system design software.

According to NI, LabVIEW is well suited for FPGA programming because it offers parallelism and data flow, allowing both experienced and inexperienced users in traditional FPGA design to apply the power of reconfigurable hardware. As a system design software, LabVIEW is uniquely capable of blending the processing done on an FPGA and a microprocessor (in your PC environment) in a way that does not require extensive knowledge of computing architectures and data manipulation. This is crucial for assembling modern communications test systems, says the developer of VST.

In essence, the development of VST is attributed to two key technologies, the high-speed PCI Express (PCIe) bus and multicore processing. PCI Express, available in x1, x4, x8, and x16 links, provides 250 MBps of throughput per lane with very low latency. Besides using increased throughput of PCIe to transfer signals from high-speed I/O, the VST taps Intel’s multicore (Core i7) processors to process all of the data transferred on the bus.

Offering three slots of PXI form factor, the software centric VST is a combination of four functions -VSG, VSA, digital I/O port and FPGA- with a frequency coverage of 65 MHz to 6 GHZ and an instantaneous bandwidth of up to 80 MHz. And it uses only 60 W of power.

Now on the hardware side, each pin of the 24-pin digital I/O port can be defined by the user using the user programmable FPGA, which in this case is Xilinx Virtex-6. Other functions on the Xilinx Virtex-6 FPGA card include baseband clocking circuitry, analog-to-digital converters (ADCs), digital-to-analog converters (DACs), a programmable function digital I/O line (PFI 0), digital I/O connector (DIO), PCI Express interface, PXI triggers, DRAM, and SRAM.

Qualcomm Atheros, the networking and connectivity subsidiary of Qualcomm, is the first customer for NI’s new VST. The communications chip designer has been using it to test 802.11ac solutions because it provides flexibility, I/O pin control, speed and test throughput that is superior to traditional box instruments. According to Doug Johnson, director of engineering at Qualcomm Atheros, 802.11ac EVM (dB) measurements performed with VST were 20 times faster than their previous PXI RF equipment, which in itself was 10 times faster than the original box instrumentation it replaced.

Also, the VST can be easily expanded to supports multiple input, multiple output (MIMO) configurations or parallel testing in a single PXI chassis. In terms of cost, the VST starts at $45,000.

Meanwhile, the roadmap shows that NI is considering extending the frequency range of VST with a variety of bandwidths.

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Aeroflex, Sequans Demonstrate LTE Cat 4 Throughput at CTIA

Aeroflex 7100 digital radio test set is used to test the LTE Cat 4 data throughtput capability of Sequans UE.

This week at the International CTIA Wireless 2012 in New Orleans, 4G chip maker Sequans Communications, in collaboration with test instruments supplier Aeroflex conducted a live LTE throughput demonstration at the Sequans’ booth. The maker claims that it is one of the few LTE semiconductor supplier to deliver category 4 throughput today.

The demonstration featured a Sequans-powered USB dongle providing LTE connectivity to a PC and the Aeroflex 7100 digital radio test set, which is being used to benchmark the industry-leading Cat 4 data throughput rates of more than 125 Mbps over single carrier TD-LTE. Aeroflex said that the 125 Mbps approaches the theoretical maximum for TDD throughput in a 20 MHz channel and is a significant achievement.

The LTE chip powering the USB dongle is the Sequans SQN3110, the baseband chip at the heart of Sequans’ second generation Andromeda LTE platform for mobile devices. Implemented in 40 nm CMOS, it is 3GPP R9 compliant and supports both TDD and FDD for global compatibility. The baseband chip comes in a very small 10×10 mm package that includes SDRAM.

Aeroflex said that the 7100 LTE digital radio test set provides advanced support of both RF parametric and protocol testing for LTE terminal devices. In fact, it simulates a network from the physical layer to the core network IP infrastructure, claimed the test instrument supplier.

According to Aeroflex product manager Michael Thorpe, the test was performed for LTE band 40 with the uplink and downlink frequencies at 2350 MHz. The Sequans user equipment (UE) was connected to the 7100 in the 2 x 2 multiple input, multiple output (MIMO) mode (two transmit and receive antennas). Thorpe said that the MIMO type was open loop spatial multiplexing used to increase the data rather than to make the transmission more robust.

Per manager’s explanation, the UE was first registered with 7100, which acted as an LTE network (eNB) transmitting to the UE. Furthermore, continued Thorpe, the UE was assigned an IP address by the 7100 which was later used for end-to-end data transmission. Also, Thorpe added, the 7100 gives users the flexibility to use any client for data generation.

For this demo, the engineers used Iperf, which is a common tool used for testing throughput of a network. It is freely available on the internet. The test was performed on TDD 2×2 MIMO Cat 4. Using the Iperf tool data was pumped from the 7100 at 130 Mbps. Iperf server client was running on the UE PC to receive the DL transmission and check for CRC errors.

The results showed that the test was successful and the two companies were able to achieve the throughput values of 130 Mbps, as expected for this configuration, asserted Thorpe.

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GaN-on-Si Based RF Transistor Handles 15:1 VSWR

GaN-on-Si based transistor survives industry’s most severe robustness test.

Since 2009, Nitronex has been in volume production of its gallium nitride-on-silicon (GaN-on-Si) based RF transistors used in MMIC amplifiers for high performance applications in the defense, communications, cable TV, and industrial & scientific markets.

Now, the company has further improved its standard production-qualified 28 V NRF1 process to develop a rugged transistor technology that is capable of surviving the industry’s most severe robustness tests without significant device degradation. The manufacturer’s vice president of engineering Ray Crampton attributes this improvement to reduced defect rates in the device and improved thermal resistance.

Using this new rugged GaN-on-Si technology, Nitronex has readied an engineering sample XPT1015, which is a 28 V, DC-3.0 GHz, 40 W power transistor with 17.5 dB small signal gain and 65% peak drain efficiency at 2 GHz. The thermal resistance of the XPT1015 is 1.9 °C/W and is amongst the lowest in the industry in this power class, according to the maker. Also, the rugged GaN-on-Si transistor exhibits a minimum breakdown voltage of 100 V. The 100 V breakdown is also guaranteed at 200 °C temperature.

According to Crampton, one hundred XPT1015 devices from four wafers were subjected to a 15:1 VSWR at all phase angles with 90 °C base plate temperature. During VSWR testing all devices were operated in a saturated average power condition being driven by a 4000 carrier 200 MHz wideband signal with a 19.5 dB peak-to-average ratio. These devices showed 100% survivability and only ~0.2 dB average change in saturated output power, said the engineering VP.

As a result, the company is now going after applications like IED jammers which Nitronex could not address earlier because its transistors did not meet the stringent robustness requirements. “We made reliability, robustness, and ruggedness a priority over the last several quarters. Our new XPT1015 is our first 28 V product explicitly designed for severe operating environments. In addition, our recently announced 48 V platform was also designed from the ground up to meet very severe environmental requirements,” stated Crampton.

Concurrently, Nitronex has been awarded a $125,000 Phase I SBIR contract to develop a highly efficient 20W X-band GaN power amplifier MMIC for use in long range RF telecommunications. This is the third X- or Ka- band contract awarded to Nitronex, further enhancing the company’s state-of-the-art GaN-on-Si power amplifier technology.

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Wireless Chipset Vendor Releases 5 GHz Wi-Fi RTLS Tags

To expedite the adoption of Wi-Fi based real-time location systems (RTLS) tags in warehouses, shipping facilities, hospitals, and buildings, wireless chipset vendor Redpine Signals has released active RF tags operating in the 5 GHz band. In fact, the new WiseMote WM1-50 is designed to offer dual 2.4/5 GHz 802.11n Wi-Fi operation.

Implemented in 130 nm CMOS process, the WM1-50 tag incorporates a three chipset that includes a TAG protocol, Wi-Fi and Flash memory. Measuring 50 x 46 x 22 mm, it also includes a 1200 mAh, 2/3 AA battery and a 125 kHz receiver for configuration activation and chokepoint support.

“Even a moderately busy channel can reduce the battery life of Wi-Fi devices. This can disrupt the deployment, management and maintenance planning of asset tracking and monitoring in an enterprise. Moving to the 5 GHz band is not only for high throughput, QoS sensitive applications, but is also an important step for long battery life applications,” said Venkat Mattela, CEO of Redpine Signals. “Our goal with our new products is to offer advanced ultra low power Wi-Fi technology in 5 GHz as well as an RTLS architecture that enables our partners to provide their own value to the total solution and ultimately accelerate RTLS deployments worldwide.”

Offering advanced Wi-Fi features including enterprise security and single stream 802.11n operation, the new tags are ideal for deployment in enterprise environments. Operation in the 5 GHz band provides for close adherence to designed battery life compared to crowded 2.4 GHz channels, said the maker. The operating profiles of tags and sensor nodes involve long periods of sleep with low power consumption interspersed with brief periods of activity. Traffic on the channel extends the periods of activity as the Wi-Fi devices wait for a chance to transmit.

According to Mattela, Redpine RTLS tags can be programmed to operate in a variety of modes, supporting multiple location tracking and update mechanisms. For instance, in Cisco Compatible Extensions (CCX) mode, they offer Cisco CCX compliant beaconing with configurable patterns, telemetry and alarm notifications. While in the Wi-Fi associated mode, these devices periodically connect to access points and communicate sensor and channel data to a server. Likewise, in other beaconing modes, the tags support standard Wi-Fi clients with simple tag identification software to locate and identify assets.

Along with the new tags, the company has also released a tag configurator WM0 and chokepoint device with low frequency excitation circuitry and an automated wireless configuration solution, creating a complete hardware and software infrastructure that enables third-party RTLS solution development.

Mattela said that the company has partnered with third-party companies to provide advanced location technology solutions and has developed applications with system integrators. Thus, creating an ecosystem of partners that are equipped to develop RTLS solutions for an array of verticals.

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Passive Downconverting Mixer Offers High Linearity Over Broad Frequency Range

High linearity downconverting passive mixer covers 4 - 6 GHz frequency range.

Targeting wideband receivers in applications such as WiMAX/WLAN, military radios, point-to-point broadband communication systems and Radar, Linear Technology has added a new member to its family of high dynamic range, high gain passive downconverting mixers. The passive mixer LTC5544 is built with 0.18 µm silicon germanium (SiGe) BiCMOS process and covers a frequency range of 4 to 6 GHz. Plus, it offers high linearity with 25.9 dBm input third-order intercept (IIP3), and high conversion gain of 7.4 dB. The high conversion gain is attributed to on-chip integrated IF amplifier.

The mixer’s noise figure (NF) is rated at 11.3 dB. To preserve receiver sensitivity and robustness, the LTC5544’s RF input is designed to handle strong interference signals without significantly degrading its NF.

In essence, the top three noise contributors in the mixer are insertion loss from the integrated RF transformer, conversion loss of the passive mixer, and the noise figure of the IF amplifier. “The thick metals offered by the BiCMOS technology helps reduce the insertion loss of the integrated RF transformer,” said Linear’s product marketing manager James Wong. Plus, he added, “The broadband LO amplifier allows the conversion loss of the mixer core to be low, and the IF amplifier was designed to have a low NF, less than 3 dB.”

Furthermore, LTC5544 operates on a single 3.3 V supply without compromising performance, and keeps power consumption to a minimum. However, the built-in IF amplifier can be powered at 5 V for higher P1dB, which must be supplied externally. At 3.3 V supply, the mixer exhibits a typical input P1dB of 11.4dBm. If the IF outputs are biased with a 5V DC supply, with more headroom, the input P1dB increases to 14.6 dBm. This choice is left to the designers, said Linear.

According to the supplier, the local oscillator (LO) frequency must be within 4.2 GHz to 5.8 GHz range for optimum performance. While the downconverting mixer’s on-chip high gain IF amplifier is capable of supporting IF frequencies up to 1 GHz.

The integrated LO buffer and the two RF balun transformers enable the RF and LO inputs to operate single-ended and with 50 Ω matching. The LO input requires only +2 dBm drive level. In reality, the mixer’s LO input circuit comprises a balun transformer and a two-stage high speed limiting differential amplifier to drive the mixer core. It is optimized for the 4.2 GHz to 5.8 GHz LO frequency range. As per the supplier’s datasheet, LO frequencies above or below this frequency range may be used with degraded performance.

The mixer’s LO input is directly connected to the primary winding of an integrated transformer. A 50 Ω match is realized with a series 1.2 pF capacitor (C3). The LTC5544 exhibits typical LO-to-IF leakage of less than -21 dBm and a LO-to-RF leakage of less than -30 dBm (with an LO power of +2 dBm). The part also has a RF-to-IF isolation of more than 29 dB.

According to Wong, “the LO buffer amplifier design is critical for the mixer to achieve broadband linear performance, good conversion gain and low NF.” “It needs to be designed with high gain over a broad frequency range with good efficiency so that the power consumption of the mixer is low,” noted Wong.

In addition, said the marketing manager, the output noise of the LO must be low, since it will contribute to the mixer’s overall NF when the mixer is operated under large signal (blocking) conditions. The LO buffer amplifier in LTC5544 is designed with an integrated LO balun and a two-stage, high gain, broadband amplifier, which provides the necessary high LO voltage swing for the gates of the MOSFETs in the passive mixer core. The large voltage swing assures that MOSFETs are fully switched “on” and “off” by the LO signal over the broadband frequency range, stated Wong. Furthermore, continued Wong, “The high efficiency of the broadband LO amplifier at 4-6 GHz is achieved by innovative circuit topology using high ft NPNs from the advanced BiCMOS technology.”

Per the mixer’s datasheet, LTC5544 draws only 194 mA of current at 3.3 V supply. Its power-down feature with 0.6 µs turn-on and turn-off time supports burst mode operation. When disabled, the device consumes a maximum of 500 µA. The LTC5544 is encased in a 16-lead, 4 x 4 mm plastic QFN package. The integrated features simplify design and require fewer external components, resulting in a smaller solution size, said the maker.

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Front-end PA, Universal Receiver Combo Delivers Flexible GNSS Solution

Combining a universal GNSS receiver with front-end amplifier delivers a highly flexible, high performance system solution for navigation applications.

Using low-power silicon germanium (SiGe) BiCMOS process, Maxim Integrated Products has released automotive grade flexible universal receiver solution for global navigation satellite system (GNSS) applications. The receiver MAX2769B is supported by a front-end power amplifier (PA) MAX2670. The universal receiver and PA combination is designed to handle navigation standards, such as GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, and Compass. The chips are complaint with automotive PPAP process and meet AEC-Q100 specs.

While MAX2670 is a dual-stage low noise amplifier (LNA) designed for the antenna module, MAX2769B resides within the dashboard as the receiver. For improving receiver sensitivity, the MAX2769B offers very low noise figure (NF), which is rated at 1.4 dB.

MAX2670 is designed to operate across all GNSS frequency standards with a 34.8 dB typical cascaded gain and a 25 mA supply current. For maximum stability in system design, the two LNA stages allow the use of a wide range of GNSS filters. The final RF output pin, which drives the cable to the GNSS receiver, is also the power-supply connection that accepts a DC supply in the +3.0 V to +5.5 V range. Alternatively, the DC supply can be applied to pin 4.

By implementing on-chip monolithic filters, MAX2769B completely eliminates the need for external IF filters and requires very few external components to implement a low-cost GNSS RF receiver solution. In addition, its integrated analog-to-digital converter (ADC), which is programmable from 1 to 3 bits, makes it highly configurable and flexible receiver design.

Key receiver functions integrated on-chip include a dual-input LNA and mixer, followed by the image-rejected filter, PGA, VCO, fractional-N frequency synthesizer, crystal oscillator, and a multibit ADC. The total cascaded NF of this receiver is as low as 1.4dB. According to Maxim, the integrated delta-sigma fractional-N frequency synthesizer allows programming of the IF frequency within a ±30 Hz (fXTAL = 32 MHz) accuracy while operating with any reference or crystal frequencies that are available in the host system. The ADC outputs CMOS logic levels with 1 or 2 quantized bits for both I and Q channels, or up to 3 quantized bits for the I channel. I and Q analog outputs are also available.

The MAX2769B is packaged in a 5-mm x 5-mm, 28-pin thin QFN package with an exposed paddle. And the front-end PA comes in a 10-pin TDFN surface-mount package (3-mm x 3-mm).

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CMOS RF Transceiver in IC Package Supports All 2G/3G/4G Modes, Bands

Multimode, multiband transceiver module comes in a BGA package

To enable wireless device manufacturers to build handsets capable of roaming in any combination of bands and modes, Fujitsu Semiconductor Wireless Products has readied a new multiband, multimode transceiver module that supports all 2G/3G/4G wireless modes. Thus, capable of handling LTE (FDD and TDD), HSPA+, WCDMA, GSM, EDGE, EDGE-EVO, CDMA, and TD-SCDMA wireless standards.

The device supports all global FDD and TDD bands, including 1-21, 23-25, and 33-41, and 2G/3G/4G networks up to 20 MHz bandwidth. In addition, it also handles TD-SCDMA bands 34 and 39. Fujitsu said that the sampling of the multimode, multiband transceiver MB86L11A will begin in the second quarter.

Implemented in submicron CMOS, Fujitsu’s integrated MB86L11A transceiver module in IC package eliminates external low-noise amplifier (LNA) and inter-stage SAW filters from the transmit and receive paths of both 3G and LTE lineups. It is encased in a compact BGA package measuring 6.6-mm x 6.6-mm.

According to Fujitsu, the new 2G/3G/4G multimode, multiband transceiver module offers leading-edge performance for current drain and RF parameters. Plus, it includes many innovative features in a smaller package with enhanced power control, envelope tracking (ET) and antenna tuning. While ET tracking significantly lowers the power consumption with improved transmitter efficiency, antenna tuning optimizes the total radiated power output from the antenna. Both features optimize the battery life of mobile devices, said the supplier.

Other on-chip features of the MB86L11A include eight RF outputs on the transmitter section, nine primary receiver RF inputs and six diversity receiver RF inputs, giving greater flexibility to map ports and bands for different market requirements. The receiver also incorporates anti-aliasing filters, digital channel filters, digital gain control and high-dynamic range analog-to-digital converters (ADCs). In addition, the transceiver integrates an open standard MIPI DigRF interface to the baseband, and has both DigRF 4G and DigRF 3G interfaces to work with existing 2G/3G baseband platforms as well as with newer multimode 4G basebands, according to Fujitsu.

Furthermore, it includes auxiliary SPI or MIPI RFFE to control power amplifiers (PAs), DC–DC converters, switching regulators and antenna switch. A built-in microcontroller unit enables simplified timing and control. The compact module enables cell-phone manufacturers to reduce component count, board space and bill of materials.

Future transceivers on the roadmap include a 4G LTE optimized device and a 3GPP Release 10, carrier-aggregation-compliant, single RFIC solution, said the manufacturer.

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RF SoC Chips Demonstrate New Levels of Integration

Integrated RF transmit SoC for microwave point-to-point communications

Whether you call them system-on-a-chip (SoC) or integrated RF ICs, the level of functional integration on a single semiconductor die has increased dramatically in last few years. And integration process continues unabated as geometries shrink. Integrated multiband, multi-standard RF radios on a single chip have emerged, as well as integrated front-ends for applications ranging from wireless LAN to Wi-Fi.

With this trend in vogue, lately some key suppliers have further raised the integration bar for RF ICs. Broadcom Corp., for instance, introduced the world’s first microwave outdoor unit (ODU) on a chip. And Texas Instruments unwrapped a new family, called WiLink 8.0, that is flaunting five-in-one wireless connectivity solution for next generation mobile applications ranging from smartphones to ultra-thin computing devices.

With unparalleled integration, Broadcom’s silicon germanium-based BCM85810 combines the functionality of up to 10 off-the-shelf chips on a single semiconductor die, claims the maker. Key functions integrated include synthesizers (IF and RF) for local oscillator (LO) function, low-noise amplifier (LNA), automatic gain control (AGC), band-pass filter bank, low-pass filter bank, mixers, voltage gain amplifier (VGA), voltage variable attenuator (VVA) with wide dynamic range, power amplifier (PA) driver, and power detectors. The company declined to talk about the process geometry and transistors used to achieve this level of integration with minimal interference and distortion at sufficiently high power levels.

Anyway, the transmit (Tx) and receive (Rx) are two separate systems– BCM85810T for Tx system and BCM85810R for Rx system. Each offers two versions to cover all standard point-to-point microwave spectrum from 6 to 40 GHz, said Broadcom. For instance, the Tx unit includes BCM85810TL covering a range of 5.9 to 19.7 GHz and BCM85810TH covering 21.2 to 40.5 GHz range. Likewise, the Rx system includes BCM85810RL (5.9 – 19.7 GHz) and BCM85810RH (21.2 – 40.5 GHz), respectively.

Some key specs offered by the Tx chip include 22 dBm (min) OIP3, 35 dB IF gain, 20 dB RF gain, -10 dBc image rejection, -144 dBc/Hz noise floor and high input/output impedance. Similarly, the Rx chip offers noise figure of 4 dB (typical for BCM85810RL), 3 dBm (typ) input IP3 with maximum attenuation and -13 dBm(typ) with minimum attenuation, 50 Ohms input impedance, 15 dB RF image rejection, 25 dB IF image rejection, Rx gain range of -20 dB to -90 dB, -55 dBc (typ) in-band spurious, and -40 dBc (typ) harmonics.

The RF/Microwave chip is designed to dramatically reduce the size, complexity, production cost and power consumption of microwave radio frequency units (RFU).
Designed to address the need for higher bandwidth and faster time-to-market in microwave split-mount and full/all outdoor units (FODU/AODU), the BCM85810 RF SoC is based on a flexible architecture, enabling various types of system architectures such as split-mount (IDU-ODU) and all-outdoor (All-ODU) on a common hardware platform.

On the TI end, WiLink 8.0 is implemented in 45 nm CMOS process to integrate up to five different radios associated with Wi-Fi, GNSS, NFC, Bluetooth and FM transmit/receive applications, as well as a few interface functions needed for these applications. There are some 15 members in this family, and each chip variant comes in a compact WSP package that can be mounted directly on a PCB, and includes all required RF front ends, a complete power management system, and other required functions. Besides saying that the integrated RF front-end chips are designed for both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz applications, TI did not provide any specs concerning power consumption, noise, distortion, RF characteristics etc.

Presently, the family includes some 15 member spread across five different series—WL189x, WL187x, WL185x, WL183x, and WL180x. The five radio WL189x is tailored for smartphones, tablet and other feature rich mobile devices. At the low-end, WL180x solutions are crafted to address lower-cost mobile applications.

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