Tag Archive FEM

ByAdele Hars

GF Delivering 45RFSOI Customer Prototypes for 5G

GlobalFoundries’ 45nm RF-SOI platform is qualified and ready for volume production on 300mm wafers (read the company’s full press release here).  It was just at the beginning of last year that GF announced the PDK availability for 45RFSOI (we covered it here).  Now there are several customers engaged for this advanced RF SOI process, which is targeted for 5G mmWave front-end module (FEM) applications, including smartphones and next-generation mmWave beamforming systems in future base stations.

In case you missed it, at the Consortium’s Shanghai symposium GF’s Mr. RF — Peter Rabbeni — gave a great talk on the company’s RF-SOI capabilities, which are very impressive (they’ve shipped over 32 billion RF-SOI devices, after all). His slides from that day are available here on the SOI Consortium website. See his slide 12 for an indication of how 45RFSOI fits into the overall picture.

Slide 12 from Peter Rabbeni’s talk at the RF-SOI Symposium in Shanghai. (Courtesy: GlobalFoundries and the SOI Consortium).

As they explain it, next-generation systems are moving to frequencies above 24GHz, so higher performance RF silicon solutions are required to exploit the large available bandwidth in the mmWave spectrum. GF’s 45RFSOI platform is optimized for beam forming FEMs, with features that improve RF performance through combining high-frequency transistors, high-resistivity SOI substrates and ultra-thick copper wiring. Moreover, the SOI technology enables easy integration of power amplifiers, switches, LNAs, phase shifters, up/down converters and VCO/PLLs that lowers cost, size and power compared to competing technologies targeting tomorrow’s multi-gigabit-per-second communication systems, including internet broadband satellite, smartphones and 5G infrastructure.

Psemi and Anokiwave are among those companies at the forefront of 45RFSOI use.  Citing the drive to deliver faster, higher-quality video, and multimedia content and services Anokiwave CEO Bob Donahue said, “GF’s RF SOI technology leadership and 45RFSOI platform enables Anokiwave to develop differentiated solutions designed to operate between the mmWave and sub-6GHz frequency band for high-speed wireless communications and networks.”

The production line is in East Fishkill, N.Y.


RF-SOI Roars Back into the Headlines

Articles about chips built on RF-SOI technology are back in the headlines. What’s driving it? Data – lots of it, and at ever higher speeds, finding its way in and out of your mobile device.

Bear in mind that we’re talking now about RF-SOI, which is not the same thing as RF in FD-SOI. These RF-SOI chips serve front-end module (FEM) functions, and are designed specifically for the special needs of getting a lot of data transmitted wirelessly, often over relatively long distances. They handle the back-and-forth of signals between the transceiver and the antenna. Today it would be practically impossible to find a smartphone that doesn’t have an RF FEM based on RF-SOI wafer technology. And the advent of 4G/LTE/LTE-A (and next, 5G) only serves to drive this market to new heights.

(In a recent ASN post, we explained the differences between RF-SOI and FD-SOI with RF – if you missed it, you can still read it here.)

By way of background, the current RF buzz is aligning with lots of activity on the world standards stage. The ITU (International Telecommunications Union), which sets time lines and processes, has just finished up its Radiocommunication Assembly (RA-15), where it approved the IMT-2020 Resolution, paving the way for 5G mobile systems (press release here). That puts 5G rolling out in 2020. If you’re really going to connect all the things in the big IoT picture, you’re going to need a whole lot more bandwidth.

But in the meantime, driven by video, even the current move from 3G to 4G/LTE-A is massive when it comes to what your mobile device has to handle. FEM designers are working all out to accommodate this, and new generations of SOI substrates are key to making it happen.

Check out this graphic from Cisco’s Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast Update 2014–2019 White Paper, showing a CAGR of 57% in mobile data through 2019 – so this is in the 4G to LTE-A time frame.


Cisco Forecasts 24.3 Exabytes per Month of Mobile Data Traffic by 2019 (Courtesy: Cisco VNI Mobile, 2015)


And the just-released Ericsson Mobility Report (get it here) sees a huge increase in M2M (machine-to-machine – an essential of IoT) and consumer cellular and non-cellular hitting the airwaves in the next five years.


A connected device is “…a physical object that has an IP stack, enabling two-way communication over a network interface.” (Source: Ericsson Mobility Report, November 2015.)


So, new solutions are needed, and RF-SOI is at the heart of it. Here’s a quick round-up of important pieces you won’t want to miss.

Microwave Journal

MicrowaveJcover_RFSOI_Oct15RF-SOI was the cover story and in the technical features of the October 2015 issue of the prestigious Microwave Journal (click here for that October digital edition).

Just to put it in perspective, getting published in the Microwave Journal is a holy grail for RF engineers. For over 50 years, it’s been the leading RF and microwave technology publication, with all peer-reviewed articles. So for RF-SOI to take center stage there is a blockbuster – it just doesn’t get much better than that. Here are the links:

Semiwiki goes to GF

Industry guru Scotten Jones wrote in semiwiki.com about the key role of RF-SOI in GF’s strategy. This was gleaned from a recent trip to the (ex-IBM) fab in Burlington, VT. His wrap-up, GlobalFoundries Visit – Part 2 – Waking the Sleeping Giant (see it here) provides new insight into just how important RF-SOI is for the company.

The article contains a link to the slide deck of the presentation given to them by the folks at GF. It’s tremendous – if you’re at all interested in RF-SOI, you really should look at it. You can access it directly here.

As recounted in the article, GF’s Burlington fab has shipped more than 18 billion RF-SOI devices since IBM first announced the their RF-SOI process back in 2007. They’ve had more than 1450 tape-outs. The 60,000 wafer/month RF-SOI market is driven by tuner and switch apps. By virtue of putting these apps on SOI rather than using III-V materials, they reduce costs and are able to integrate key logic and control functionality.

(Source: semiwiki.com and GlobalFoundries)

Check out this GF slide showing the massive growth they’re projecting:


(Source: semiwiki.com and GlobalFoundries)

And here’s the roadmap that says it all:


(Source: semiwiki.com and GlobalFoundries)

(Source: semiwiki.com and GlobalFoundries)

Elsewhere in the news, there have also been a number of new RF-SOI-based products announced. We’ll be expanding on those in the ASN Buzz, so stay tuned!

ByGianni PRATA

RF-SOI Key in MagnaChip IoT Plans

RF-SOI will play a key role in the IoT plans of analog and mixed-signal specialist MagnaChip (read the press release here). The company has launched a task force to address IoT. The statement says, “MagnaChip also offers 0.18 micron and plans to offer 0.13 micron Silicon on Insulator (SOI) RF-CMOS technologies, which is suitable for use in antenna switching, tuner and Power Amplifier (PA) applications. Switches and tuners are core components of wireless Front-End-Modules (FEMs) for cellular and Wi-Fi connectivity in IoT devices. MagnaChip’s CMOS based FEMs reduce manufacturing cost and time to market while providing competitive performance for multiband and multimode smartphones, tablets and other IoT devices.”

Commenting on the IoT opportunity, YJ Kim, MagnaChip’s interim Chief Executive Officer, said, “We believe there is tremendous growth opportunity in the IoT market and our participation is part of our overall strategy to broaden our product portfolio in new markets. MagnaChip’s IoT task force and business consortium with key business partners will reinforce our position as a key manufacturing service provider in the expanding IoT market.”

ByGianni PRATA

New All-CMOS RF-SOI Front-End Solution from Peregrine/Murata First to Integrate Filters and Module Capabilities

Peregrine Semiconductor teams with Murata to announce the 2015 UltraCMOS® Global 1 Initiative. This new initiative seamlessly integrates the PE56500 all-CMOS RF-SOI front-end solution and Murata filters.

Peregrine Semiconductor teams with Murata to announce the 2015 UltraCMOS® Global 1 Initiative. This new initiative seamlessly integrates the PE56500 all-CMOS RF-SOI front-end solution and Murata filters.

Peregrine Semiconductor and Murata have launched the 2015 UltraCMOS® Global 1 Initiative, which includes the UltraCMOS Global 1 PE56500 and seamlessly integrates Murata filters and packaging into the RF-SOI front-end solution. (See press release here.) Built on Peregrine’s UltraCMOS 10 technology, the PE56500 combines Peregrine’s proven RF-SOI switch and tuner technology with new CMOS PA capability that delivers raw performance equivalent to GaAs. UltraCMOS Global 1 technology makes a single, global SKU possible – saving 4G LTE mobile-device manufacturers significant time and money.

Global 1 replaces discrete duplexer matching with a sophisticated tunable matching network that optimizes the PA match across the band. With Global 1 and its supporting software, an engineer can simply plug in the device and use the software to tune the RF front end within a few hours, rather than spend weeks in manual tuning.

The Global 1 PE56500 will be in volume production in late 2015.

ByGianni PRATA

TowerJazz — Interview With SVP Marco Racanelli: What’s Driving Strong SOI-Based Design Wins?

Dr. Marco Racanelli, TowerJazz Senior Vice President & General Manager, RF & High Performance Analog Business Group and Aerospace & Defense Group

Dr. Marco Racanelli, TowerJazz Senior Vice President & General Manager, RF & High Performance Analog Business Group and Aerospace & Defense Group








ASN recently spoke with TowerJazz SVP Marco Racanelli about when the specialty foundry leverages SOI – and why.

Advanced Substrate News (ASN): Can you tell us briefly about TowerJazz’s overall vision and position in the market? 

Marco Racanelli (MR):  TowerJazz is the foundry leader for the manufacture of specialty semiconductor devices.  By “specialty” semiconductor devices, we mean those that require technology with some degree of specialization beyond commodity CMOS, for example in applications such as analog, RF, power, CMOS Image Sensor, and MEMS.  We invest in specialty process technology and manufacturing capacity around the world to fuel our growth (today we have manufacturing facilities in the US, Israel and Japan).

The TowerJazz fab in Newport Beach, CA.

The TowerJazz fab in Newport Beach, CA.

ASN: What kinds of chips does TowerJazz propose customers put on SOI? Why? 

MR: SOI on high resistivity substrates provides excellent RF isolation for customers working on front-end modules (FEMs) for wireless communication products.  Specifically for RF switches, thin device silicon layers result in low junction capacitance which is favorable for achieving high isolation.  We have had some customers leverage our SiGe BiCMOS technologies on SOI to integrate improved RF switching capabilities and achieve better isolation among circuit blocks.  Finally, some TowerJazz customers use thick film SOI for MEMS.  The silicon layer in SOI is used to fabricate beams for electro-mechanical structures and devices, e.g. MEMS resonators.

ASN: What are the growth drivers (end-markets, trends) for your SOI-based services? 

MR: Each generation of smart phones has required increasing numbers of RF ports to support multiple standards and functions e.g. 3G, 4G, 802.11, diversity antenna.  The need for longer handset battery life is driving implementation of RF-SOI based antenna tuner products to improve antenna efficiency.


Click to enlarge. (Courtesy: Techinsights’ Teardown.com and IEEE S3S Conference)

Click image to enlarge. (Courtesy: Techinsights’ Teardown.com and IEEE S3S Conference)

ASN: What are the advantages in moving to SOI-based technologies? 

MR: In some markets such as FEMs, the performance advantages of SOI are required to enable these RF products in CMOS; bulk technologies simply can’t provide the required isolation and low capacitance to meet the most demanding 4G/LTE specifications.  Thicker film SOI can support SiGe bipolar devices with significantly lower collector-to-substrate capacitance than their bulk counterparts.  In high voltage products, SOI dielectric isolation can simplify the design process, reduce latch-up risk, and allow a much more compact design than junction-isolated technologies.

Inside the TowerJazz Newport Beach Facility (Fab 3)

Inside the TowerJazz Newport Beach Facility (Fab 3)

ASN: Are there particular regions where you see especially high growth for SOI-based offerings? 

MR: We see broad adoption of SOI in all major phone platforms.  Our strongest growth and largest market for SOI is in the US although we see some Asia customers as well. The end customers are more evenly distributed between the US and Asia primarily.

ASN: Last year, you announced your RF-SOI had the industry’s best figure of merit for antenna switch and antenna tuning applications. What are you seeing there in terms of design wins? 

MR: We are seeing very strong design wins and production ramp of SOI in our factories.


American Semiconductor's  FleX-MCU™ product family leverages an SOI starting wafer.  (Courtesy: American Semiconductor)

American Semiconductor’s FleX-MCU™ product family leverages an SOI starting wafer.
(Courtesy: American Semiconductor)

ASN: American Semi partnered with TowerJazz on flexible ICs, which leverage SOI.  What sort of applications is that technology going into?  

MR: The potential for flexible ICs is very broad. For Aerospace and Defense, key areas of interest are ‘wearable’ circuits, introducing ICs and systems into soldiers’ field clothes and gear, creating a radar system that conforms to the entire body of an aircraft, sea vehicle, or any UAV or drone.  The ideas can be countless – the path is to reduce or eliminate the rigid form and fit of mobile electronics and integrate these electronics into a lighter weight, smaller and more flexible material.

ASN: Cavendish Kinetics announced that they’d be collaborating with you on RF-MEMS for mobile, which could be on SOI.  Is that available, and if so, can you tell us about it?

MR: We continue to work with Cavendish and have announced impressive reliability results with their devices; these are available through Cavendish directly.

ASN: Can you tell us more about the forthcoming 0.18 TS18SOI integrated power platform? 

MR: This platform is targeting a number of applications, the dominant one being in automotive and will include high-voltage devices, 0.18um CMOS for integration of digital and power management functions along with non-volatile-memory.  SOI in this case helps isolate the devices from the substrate allowing flexibility in applying voltages without turning on junctions that can lead to leakage or latch-up and in some cases helps reduce die-size by improving isolation allowing devices to be closer together.

ASN: Looking down the road, where/how do SOI-based technologies fit into your outlook for the future?  

MR: SOI particularly for RF is a significant focus for TowerJazz and we continue to invest in new technology and propagating the technology we have to multiple factories to increase capacity available to our customers.  While RF dominates our SOI consumption, we also see a good future for SOI in power management and MEMS and other sensor applications.







TowerJazz will be presenting its SOI and other processes at its upcoming Technical Global Symposiums (TGS) taking place in Europe (18 September 2014), the US (19 November 14) and Japan (10 December 2014). To find out more and register for TGS, please visit: http://www.towerjazz.com/tgs/




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Dr. Marco Racanelli has served as TowerJazz Senior Vice President & General Manager, RF & High Performance Analog Business Group and Aerospace & Defense Group since September 2008. Previously, he served as Vice President of Technology & Engineering, Aerospace & Defense General Manager for Jazz Semiconductor.

 Prior to Jazz, Dr. Racanelli held several positions at Conexant Systems and Rockwell Semiconductor since 1996 in the area of technology development where he helped establish industry leadership in SiGe and BiCMOS and MEMS technology, and built a strong design support organization. Prior to Rockwell, Dr. Racanelli worked at Motorola, Inc., where he contributed to bipolar, SiGe and SOI development for its Semiconductor Products Sector.

 Dr. Racanelli received a Ph.D. and a M.S. in Electrical and Computer Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University, and a B.Sc. in Electrical Engineering from Lehigh University. He holds over 35 U.S. patents.

~ ~ ~

ByGianni PRATA

Soitec’s Shipped Enough eSI RF-SOI Substrates to Make over 1.4 Billion Devices

Soitec estimates that it has shipped enough of its eSI wafers to fabricate more than 1.4 billion RF front-end semiconductor devices. (Read the press release here.)  The proprietary Enhanced Signal Integrity™ (eSI) substrates are now the substrate of choice for manufacturing cost-effective and high-performance radio-frequency (RF) devices providing a power boost for 4G /LTE applications.

For eSI, Soitec and the Université catholique de Louvain (UCL) developed a technique that adds a “trap-rich” layer underneath the buried oxide, which freezes the parasitic surface conduction that’s inherent in any oxidized silicon substrate. (The technical details are clearly explained in an excellent ASN post by the Soitec and UCL team leaders – click here to read it.) Using a set of very specific patents, Soitec applied proprietary technology and accumulated knowledge to build the new eSI product line.

This substrate provides a raft of advantages to RF design. Because the trap-rich layer is built into the substrate, it reduces the number of process steps and relaxes design rules, leading to a highly competitive performance and die cost, including a smaller area per function. RF designers can therefore integrate diverse functions such as switches, power amplifiers and antenna tuners with excellent RF isolation, good insertion loss, better thermal conductivity and better signal integrity than other technologies. (Click here to read Soitec’s ASN post from December 2013 describing all the RF design challenges eSI answers.)


ByGianni PRATA

MagnaChip and the National Nano Fab Center (“NNFC”) have entered into an SOI RF CMOS technology transfer agreement that combines MagnaChip’s specialty manufacturing expertise with NNFC’s robust RF technology.

MagnaChip and the National Nano Fab Center (“NNFC”) have entered into an SOI RF CMOS technology transfer agreement that combines MagnaChip’s specialty manufacturing expertise with NNFC’s robust RF technology. The two companies have targeted expansion into the emerging RF front-end module (“FEM”) foundry market.

ByGianni PRATA

STMicroelectronics says its new manufacturing process, known as H9SOI_FEM, allows production of complete integrated front-end modules

STMicroelectronics says its new manufacturing process, known as H9SOI_FEM, allows production of complete integrated front-end modules. This process is an evolution of the H9SOI SOI process, a groundbreaking technology introduced by ST in 2008 and subsequently used by customers to produce more than 400 million RF switches for mobile phones and Wi-Fi applications. Building on that experience, ST has optimized H9SOI for creating integrated front-end modules, resulting in today’s announcement of H9SOI_FEM offering the industry’s best figure of merit for antenna switch and antenna tuning devices with Ron x Coff at 207fs2 . ST has also invested to ensure suitable manufacturing capacity for even the most demanding of customers. The new process greatly reduces size of multi-band radios for 4G and other high-speed wireless connections.

The H9SOI_FEM process is a 0.13µm technology with dual-gate 1.2V and 2.5V MOSFETs. Unlike conventional SOI processes, such as those used for discrete devices like RF switches, H9SOI_FEM supports multiple technologies such as GO1 MOS, GO2 MOS, and optimized NLDMOS. This allows H9SOI_FEM to support full monolithic integration of all key functions of an RF front end, which comprise RF switches, Low Noise Amplifier (LNA), multi-mode multi-band cellular Power Amplifiers (PAs), diplexers, RF coupling, antenna tuning and RF energy-management functions.

H9SOI_FEM is suitable both for devices targeting the low end of the market, where low cost and extensive integration are crucial, as well as the high-end smartphone segment. High-end products typically require a combination of many frequency bands to support not only 2G, 3G and 4G standards, but also various other wireless connectivity standards such as Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, GPS and NFC (Near-Field Communication) for contactless payments.

ByGianni PRATA

In the three months following Peregrine Semi’s announcement of the latest version of its UltraCMOS® process technology, the company has followed with a steady stream of news

Peregrine Dune DTCIn the three months following Peregrine Semi’s announcement of the latest version of its UltraCMOS® process technology, STeP8 for RF Front End ICs, the company has followed with a steady stream of news. (The UltraCMOS technology is an advanced RF SOI process leveraging bonded silicon-on-sapphire (BSOS) substrates from Soitec.) Recent announcements include:

Chipworks’ teardown guru Dick James (@ChipworksDick) recently Tweeted that Peregrine has two switches in Samsung’s Galaxy S4.

ByGianni PRATA

Altis Semiconductor will be a foundry partner for the IBM 180nm SOI technology

Specialty foundry Altis Semiconductor will be a foundry partner for the IBM 180nm SOI technology. ALTIS will deliver high volume products starting Q2 2013 and will secure capacity increase for 2014 and beyond to address the IBM forecasted demand.  This foundry agreement addresses the next generation of consumer products, including as an example, the RF/SOI chipsets used in the world most advanced mobile devices. IBM’s 7RFSOI technology provides advantage by simultaneously enabling the required level of integration and performance for the large number of switches required in the modern smartphone for example cellular antenna switches, diversity antenna and WLAN, says the company.