Peregrine Semiconductor recently announced immediate availability of volume production parts for their UltraCMOS® 60 GHz RF SOI switches. (Read the full press release here.) The PE42525 and PE426525 extend Peregrine’s high frequency portfolio into frequencies previously dominated by GaAs technology. Both 60 GHz switches deliver exceptional performance in all key RF parameters and have a fast switching speed of only 8 nanoseconds.
Kinana Hussain, Peregrine’s director of marketing says, “These high frequency switches are garnering a high adoption rate in multiple markets including 5G, test and measurement, and defense. Not only do these switches break paradigms in high frequency, they also break paradigms in SOI fast switching.”
From RF-SOI pioneer Peregrine Semi comes a steady stream of new chips and design wins.
Psemi was honored with a 2015 Electronic Products “Product of the Year” award for its UltraCMOS® PE42020 True DC RF switch, the industry’s first and only RF integrated switch to operate from DC (0 Hz) to 8 GHz. (Press release here.)
As you may have read in the first part of this series, Soitec (the industry’s leading supplier of SOI wafers) says its 200mm RF-SOI wafers have been used to produce over 20 billion chips, and the company is now in high-volume manufacturing of a 300mm version of its wildly successful RFeSI line (see press release here).
So far it’s been all about RF front-end module – aka FEM – chips that handle the back-and-forth of signals between the transceiver and the antenna, originally in 2G and 3G phones. For 4G/LTE-A (and 5G when that hits), there were new wafer innovations – and now 300mm wafers.
The newest RF-SOI wafers, Soitec’s RFeSI90 series (available in both 200mm and 300mm diameters), offer higher levels of performance such as better uniformity, which chip designers need to achieve greater control of transistor matching in analog designs. Plus with the new wafers designers can use thinner transistors and additional process options to improve RonCoff performance, the figure of merit that’s used to rate the performance of an RF switch. For Soitec customers (and really, anyone doing FEMs these days is a customer), all these advances plus the large supply of 200mm and 300mm wafers means that they can expand their production capacities for RF-SOI devices and produce more highly integrated ICs.
GlobalFoundries, for example, sang the praises of 300mm wafers for RF-SOI at a recent SOI Consortium forum in Tokyo. Here’s a slide from Peter Rabbeni’s talk, (he’s GloFo’s Sr. Director RF Product Marketing and Biz Dev), RFSOI: Defining the RF-Digital Boundary for 5G (you can get the full presentation here):
As you see in the slide above, RF-SOI champion Peregrine Semiconductor introduced the industry’s first 300mm RF-SOI technology – that was back in July 2015. Dubbed UltraCMOS® 11, it’s built on GlobalFoundries’ 130 nm 300mm RF technology platform (read about it here).
Looking forward, GF’s Rabbeni noted, “Significant R&D has been done in evaluating the application of SOI to 5G architectures, with very positive results. SOI holds great promise in delivering on the key requirements of 5G systems.”
Also at the Tokyo event, Kenji Tateiwa, General Manager of R&D Strategic Planning for TPSCo (that’s TowerJazz/Panasonic), gave a great presentation on 300mm RFSOI Development toward IoT Era. 300mm RF-SOI, he noted, “has room to run.”
For Soitec, of course, work on future generations of RF-SOI substrates continues unabated. You can be sure they’ve got a product roadmap focused on continued innovation and cost effectiveness for future mobile communication markets.
But in addition to working on its RF-SOI roadmap internally, Soitec is leading an international program to further develop the technology in collaboration with 16 partners from five European countries, representing the entire electronics value chain from raw materials to finished communication products. The REFERENCE Project, awarded in a call for projects by the Electronic Components and Systems for European Leadership (ECSEL) group ─ aims to create a European competitive industrial ecosystem based on RF-SOI.
Over the next three years, the REFERENCE Project expects to innovate new materials, engineered substrates, processes, design, metrology and system integration that pave the way for 5G wireless communications. The R&D and demonstration objectives for 4G+/5G technologies include Soitec’s development of RF-SOI substrates, and the production of RF-SOI devices at two major European semiconductor foundries. These advances will contribute to RF-SOI’s growing use in three targeted applications: cellular communications/the Internet of Things (IoT), automotive and aeronautics , including pioneering new frequency bands.
“Soitec is at the forefront of European innovation and we are very happy to be part of this very important European research project involving key partners beyond our direct customers,” said Nelly Kernevez, partnership director at Soitec. “This initiative allows us to build the European Union’s RF community, consolidate our vision of what the future can be, and leverage proven material technology to create RF communication solutions for tomorrow.”
The wireless world will keep progressing by leaps and bounds over the next few years. And it’s looking like ever-advancing RF-SOI substrates will be the springboard. Stay tuned!
EDI CON China 2016, taking place April 19-21 in Beijing at the China National Convention Center (CNCC) will feature a keynote talk by GlobalFoundries‘ Peter Rabbeni, Sr. Director, RF BU Business Development & Product Marketing. The talk, entitled, “RF SOI: Revolutionizing Radio Design Today and Driving Innovation for Tomorrow”, will kick off the newly added RF-SOI Technology Track. The SOI Track will also feature talks and workshops from Peregrine Semiconductor, TowerJazz, Simgui, AnalogSmith and Shanghai Jiao Tong University. The talks will cover substrate engineering, design enablement, CMOS power amplifier design techniques and highly integrated control devices.
Mr. Rabbeni’s keynote talk will cover how there has been dramatic growth in RF SOI over the last several years in its continued march in driving performance improvement, cost reduction and architecture innovation between the transceiver and the antenna in mobile radios. No other radio technology in recent memory has had the impact that RF SOI has had in this respect. With standards becoming increasingly more challenging and the pending introduction of 5G, RF SOI is expected to continue to play an important role in the development of innovative architectures. His presentation will explore where we have been, why and where we may be headed with this technology. Substrate engineering and SOI device technology is reviewed in detail in Microwave Journal’s October 2015 cover story at http://www.microwavejournal.com/articles/25255.
More information is available at www.ediconchina.com.
RF-SOI pioneer Peregrine Semiconductor has announced the UltraCMOS® PE4314, a 75-ohm glitch-less RF digital step attenuator (DSA). This new DSA extends Peregrine’s existing glitch-less DSA portfolio to 75 ohms. The PE4314 is ideal for wired broadband applications in cable/satellite customer premises equipment (CPE) and infrastructure equipment.
“As the founders of RF-SOI, Peregrine is recognized as a performance leader in RF products,” says Kinana Hussain, director of marketing at Peregrine Semiconductor. “Our products offer best-in-class performance and proven quality and reliability. The PE4314 is a testament to staying true to this philosophy. Peregrine introduced the world’s first single-chip DSA in 2004, and we are now expanding our DSA portfolio to include this 75-ohm solution to solve one of our customers’ biggest challenges—attenuation state transition glitches.”
RF-SOI pioneer Peregrine Semiconductor has introduced the UltraCMOS® PE44820, an 8-bit digital phase shifter designed for active antenna apps, covering a 358.6-degree phase range. (Read the press release here.)
The UltraCMOS® PE44820 is a monolithic, digitally controlled product made for easy design-in and delivering exceptional phase accuracy and high linearity. Supporting a frequency range of 1.7 to 2.2 GHz, the PE44820 is ideal for optimizing the transmission phase angle in the wireless infrastructure and radar markets. It provides reliable and repeatable RF performance to applications such as antenna beamforming, distributed antenna systems (DAS) and phased-array antennas, says the company.
The PE44820 is also capable of extended frequency operation from 1.1 to 3.0 GHz for narrow band applications.
Samples, evaluation kits and volume-production parts are available now.
Is RF-SOI the same thing as RF on FD-SOI? No, it’s not. However, the runaway success of RF-SOI and the growing list of recent announcements related to FD-SOI with integrated RF has lead to some confusion in the press and social media. The two are different technologies, addressing different markets, and built on two very different types of SOI wafers. The use of one technology or the other depends on the requirements of the targeted RF application.
For the non-technical reader, here is a bit of basic background. At the most simplistic level – RF: radio frequency – is part of the analog family, and as such is all about waves. And when you talk about waves, you talk about losses over distance (attenuation), speed, wavelength and frequency – which is why the RF design has a rep of being something of a black art. The distance to cover, the power envelope and the amount of data to carry over that distance (and of course, the cost) determine the chip solutions. An important part of the RF chip solution is the choice of the wafer substrate itself.
So here’s a quick primer to help sort out what’s what. Please bear in mind, though, that this is a fast-evolving world, so what you’re about to read is not a definitive and forever what’s what – but more of a general (and simplified) “this is how it is currently shaking out”.
RF-SOI – Talk to the Tower
When it comes to using your mobile device for data transmission over a 2G, 3G, 4G/LTE/LTE-A (and next, 5G) network, you still need dedicated RF front-end modules (FEMs). FEMs handle the back-and-forth of signals between the transceiver and the antenna. They contain multiple parts, including switches, power amplifiers, antenna tuning, power management and filters. Traditionally, they were built on gallium arsenide substrates. But more and more, the multiple chips in FEM chipsets are being reduced to single SOCs built on a special class of high-resistivity SOI wafers. This is the realm of RF-SOI. The wafers for RF-SOI are designed specifically to handle the special needs of getting a lot of data transmitted wirelessly, often over relatively long distances.
The latest standards (LTE-A and 5G) raise the stakes ever higher, requiring mobile devices to support more bands, higher frequency bands, and emission and reception on adjacent bands with downlink and uplink carrier aggregation. (Carrier aggregation refers to the simultaneous reception of multiple frequency bands to improve data throughput.)
For RF designers, that means choosing substrates that favor low RF loss and high RF linearity. A couple of years ago, SOI leader Soitec, in partnership with UCL, brought breakthrough RF-SOI wafer technology to the market (read about that here). Now, a few generations later, Soitec estimates that one billion RF devices are produced each quarter using their advanced and enhanced Signal Integrity™(eSI)wafers for RF. In fact it would be nigh near impossible to find a smartphone that doesn’t have an RF FEM based on RF-SOI wafer technology.
Here at ASN, we’ve covered many of the leaders in RF-SOI FEMs over the last few years. Click on any of these names to get an idea of what they’re doing: IBM (now part of GlobalFoundries), Peregrine, SkyWorks, TowerJazz, ST, Qorvo, Sony, Qualcomm, Grace, Toshiba and MagnaChip. To learn more about the latest developments in wafer technology for RF-SOI, click here. With demand soaring, Soitec’s most advanced RF-SOI wafers are now also being produced by Simgui in China – read about that here.
In fact, the cover story and technical features of the October 2015 issue of the prestigious Microwave Journal is dedicated to RF-SOI – click here to read it.
So in terms of terminology, that’s “RF-SOI”. Now let’s look at how RF on FD-SOI is different.
RF in FD-SOI – for digital integration
When we talk about RF in FD-SOI, we’re typically talking about some RF functionality being integrated into SOCs that are essentially digital processors. True, you can integrate RF functionality into an SOC built on planar bulk (it’s generally agreed to be a nightmare in bulk FinFETs, though). But you can integrate RF into your digital SOC much more easily, efficiently and with less power if you do it in FD-SOI.
RF/analog has a (well-deserved) rep of being the most challenging part of chip design. Analog/RF devices are super sensitive to voltage variations. The digital parts of a chip, which have strong, sudden signal switching, can raise havoc with nearby analog/RF blocks. This means that the analog/RF designers have to care acutely about gain, matching, variability, noise, power dissipation, and resistance. They use all kinds of specialized techniques: FD-SOI makes their job a lot easier (good explanation in slide 8 here). What’s more, FD-SOI’s analog performance far exceeds bulk.
What sort of chips are we talking about? For now, we’re talking about processors for mobile devices, for IoT, for automotive, for consumer electronics. When we say “RF in an FD-SOI SOC”, we’re currently talking about chips that are connecting over a relatively short distance to a nearby box or device (<100m for local WiFi, or a few meters for Bluetooth or Zigbee, for example).
ST’s new set-top-box processors on 28nm FD-SOI (read about them here) are a great example. They are the first on the market integrating 4×4 802.11ac Wi-Fi (using IP from Quantenna) and High Dynamic Range support. This means the set-top boxes can reliably serve lots of HD video via WiFi to multiple users throughout the house (hopefully ending the cry: “Who’s hogging all the Wifi?!?”). ST credits their 28nm FD-SOI silicon technology with providing that highly-efficient RF, state-of-the-art WiFi performance and robustness required for reliable video delivery inside the home.
For RF on FD-SOI – as in other FD-SOI apps – designers use SOI wafers with ultra-thin silicon, ultra-thin insulating BOX and phenomenal top silicon thickness uniformity. These wafers are not the special high-resistivity wafers used in RF-SOI. Rather, they are the latest generations of the same (amazing!) FD-SOI wafers that Soitec introduced in 2010. (For an excellent, in-depth interview with the Soitec FD-SOI wafer guru on the supply chain and the most recent developments, click here.)
This is the type of wafers that GloFo, ST, Samsung, Freescale, Sony, several other companies in Japan and many more around the world are using when they say they’re doing RF on FD-SOI. Bear in mind that this level of SOC integration is fairly new (Samsung and TSMC just announced RF integration into SOCs for the first time in 2014 on 28bulk). But using FD-SOI technology and the corresponding ultra-thin SOI wafer substrates makes life much easier for the RF folks on the design teams, gets far better performance and far lower power at a much more attractive cost.
Further ahead, FD-SOI is also a candidate for transceivers and baseband/modem SOCs, which require high-performance digital and analog/RF integration. But even with transceivers on FD-SOI, you’ll still need the FEM on RF-SOI to handle the interface.
So, that’s the current difference between RF-SOI and RF on FD-SOI.
Hope that helps to clear things up?
RF-SOI champion Peregrine Semiconductor has introduced the industry’s first 300mm RF-SOI technology. Dubbed UltraCMOS® 11, it is built on GlobalFoundries’ 130 nm 300mm RF technology platform (read full press release here).
The UltraCMOS 11 platform will be the foundation for Peregrine’s high volume mobile products and SOI products for other applications. It builds on the success of the award-wining UltraCMOS 10 technology platform, also developed and manufactured by GF, and offers unparalleled performance and cost-competitive advantages.
Moving to a 300mm wafer opens the door to new enhancements and advanced features in future generations of the UltraCMOS technology platform, which can leverage GlobalFoundries’ 300 mm production-proven design enablement and manufacturing expertise and scale.
“For over 25 years, Peregrine has been at the forefront of advancing RF SOI technology,” said Jim Cable, CEO of Peregrine Semiconductor (now a Murata company). “That legacy continues with today’s introduction of the UltraCMOS 11 platform, the first RF SOI 300 mm technology platform. By using 300 mm wafers, Peregrine ensures our technology roadmap will continue to be on the leading edge of RF SOI.”
RF-SOI specialist Peregrine continues to expand its “SOI University” series of webinars (click here to see the full offering), which has been ongoing for five years now. The latest webinar (the fifteenth in the series) is entitled, Linearity: The Key to Successful Data Transmission in Cable & Beyond. It is presented by Peter Bacon, the company’s Director of System Integration. In this 48-minute webinar, Peter explains how data rates have continued to increase in virtually every application. As an example, he discusses DOCSIS 3.1 and explains that linearity is an essential factor in meeting the new requirements. Finally, he describes the benefits of Peregrine’s UltraCMOS® technology in meeting these requirements.
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.