The SOI Consortium’s China 2019 event ran for two days, and it’s taken four (!) posts to cover all the presentations. In this final post we cover the afternoon RF-SOI sessions, which were dedicated to the China RF-SOI ecosystem and the RF value chain.
In case you missed them, our previous posts recapped: 1. major keynotes from both the FD-SOI and RF-SOI days; 2. the FD-SOI presentations; 3. the morning sessions of the RF-SOI day; and 4. (this post) the RF-SOI day afternoon sessions.
As we noted in Part 1 of our RF-SOI coverage, there were over 500 attendees for the RF-SOI day. And impressively, the room was still packed right through to the very end of the afternoon.
This talk had two parts. First, how is 5G changing the world, and second, what are the RFFE opportunities? He cited IHS data indicating that 5G will create tens of millions of jobs. New products include NB IoT, cellular V2X, as well as traditional PC/tablets and smart phones. But you still need to cover 2/3/4G with 5G. Major growth will happen in 2025-27. In terms of opportunities for RFFE, you’ve currently got 550mm2 going for $8; in 5G, you’ll need 600mm2, but it will cost $16. You need RFSOI for filters and antenna switches, which are in high demand. Parts of the supply chain have no China players. Revenue for BAW is higher than SAW, but there’s more SAW. He sees the industry moving heavily into integrated FEM (versus chip-on-board). He finished by itemizing different parts of the RFFE, indicating where the opportunities are (citing some data from Yole), with a special emphasis on integrated products for Chinese companies, with continued investor confidence.
RF-SOI is an enabler of smart connections. However he sees GaAs as better for power, so SmarterMicro has a solution combining RF-SOI and GaAs. They’ve developed the world’s first mMTC RFFE for high-performance upgrades on a single die and software reconfigurable. He notes that for IoT, lifetimes will be longer than 10 years, and that terminals are becoming more powerful.
CanaanTek is a fabless company working in consumer markets, with switches, tuners and LNAs in SOI-CMOS. He wants to capture 10% of the market with a focus on sub-6. The antenna/tuner is a must, and they’ve developed solutions for switches here. The figure of merit is RonCoff. He showed a product roadmap on SOI-CMOS.
RF-SOI is growing, but there are still design challenges in process, models, filters and packaging. To design a good front end, you need better models and filters. People think passives are easy, but you need accurate models here. Xpeedic has developed design flows that include the effects of packaging early in design. Their products include IRIS, iModeler and Metis (for packaging). They’ve also introduced substrate modeling in partnership with CWS in France. The product is called SiPEX: it can address linearity in switch or PA designs. You need accurate substrate models to do this. Customers indicate they’re seeing big improvements as well as reductions of 25% in chip area. IDP filters is another place they’re working, to provide RF filters to fabless IC or module companies. No single filter technology can fit all the needs – IDP is one of them, so they have a broad portfolio of IDP filter technologies. He closed by saying that especially in China, the SOI ecosystem is really growing.
This presentation gave a full overview of what TowerJazz offers in terms of RF-SOI foundry services with its fabs in Isreal, the US and Japan. What’s new in 2019 is a diversifying of 200mm and 300mm. 200mm is best for power handling (for infrastructure/basestation antenna tuners and switch power handling, for example). 300mm is best for SW and LNA integration and higher digital densities. They’ve got new SOI models for the latest technology generations, and physics-based modeling of RF breakdown for accuracy. With more die being flipped, they needed new substrate modeling. For LNA and switch integration in 300mm, they invested in RF modeling. They also have an in-house MPW (multi-project wafer) program. He noted that customers in China are moving quickly in response to their customer requirements.
Okmetic Oy is a niche player in the substrate materials market, with specialties in sensors and MEMS, where they are the market leader. Now part of China’s NSIG group, they are expanding their manufacturing facility in Finland. In this presentation, their CTO talked about their current offerings as well as what they have under development. They do 150-200mm wafers, with a special emphasis on thick SOI. In terms of silicon substrates for RF, ultra-high resistivity is key. Their wafers are also used in IDP – integrated passive devices – for RF and acoustic filters. They are continually improving their high resistivity Magnetic Czochralski (MCz) silicon wafers, and are developing substrates for RF passives for automotive V2X. For RF beyond 6 GHz, they are looking at customized high resistivity silicon wafers for mmWave with researchers and customers. For sensors, they do SOI wafers with built-in cavities.
The world is exceeding expectations in terms of data usage. While the CAGR for devices is 27%, for data it’s 46%. Therefore each device needs to be faster and more power efficient. Incize recognizes RF as an art, with each piece hand crafted. But artists need to see the whole picture: at Incize, they help 17 companies – including wafer suppliers, foundries and fabless – see that big picture, especially in measurement, characterization and modeling for RF. For wafer suppliers, they do very high-power and very precise on-wafer testing to determine things like intermodulation distortion and substrate interference. For foundries, their specialty is in RF switches, for whom they do harmonics testing and thermal noise management. With those insights, Incize foundry customers have drastically increased the performance of the RF chips they’re manufacturing on trap-rich, high-resistivity SOI wafers. Meanwhile, Incize is also preparing PDKs for future potential substrate generations including GaN-on-Silicon, silicon-on-porous, and new contactless testing techniques for piezoelectric-on-insulator (POI – used in filters in 4/5G). “There’s a really big business opportunity for RF-SOI,” concluded Emam, “and room for everyone.”
Cadence does SOI enablement at advanced nodes. Smith shared three recent success stories. First, there’s the Musca-S1 test chip they did with Arm, Samsung and Sondrel this past spring. Second, there’s the Tensilica DSP for automotive vision on GlobalFoundries’ 22FDX, which uses 1/10th of the power of existing solutions and was demonstrated at CES. And finally there’s the i.MX line from NXP. In recent news, there’s a new version (18.1) of Virtuoso RF. Though it’s been on the market for 30 years, they’ve added advanced methodologies so that system design and analysis are on the same platform. They’ve also announced National Instruments’ analysis solver, the Clarity 3D solver for next-gen 3D solutions, the integration of multiple electromagnetic (EM) solvers, and advance SiP options.
Every multi-core SoC today has as many as 200 IPs, if not more. How do you manage that? Tracking and traceability of IP is complicated but important. For IP providers, how do they track where its being used? And for IP consumers, they need to know what they’ve used and where. What’s required is an IP management system to keep track of the different functions and different concerns. Today’s tracking systems don’t talk to each other. Silvaco’s Xena IP management solution organizes all IP data, accounts, products, contracts, devices, support, compliance and reporting. For compliance in particular, they do IP “fingerprinting” and “DNA analysis”, which they’ve patented. The fingerprint is a digital representation of the IP: it’s not just software. It is secure, and can’t be reverse engineered. It’s not a tag: a tag is inserted into the IP, whereas fingerprints are extracted. DNA analysis flags discrepancies and quickly identifies where they are and which files to look in. Xena works in the cloud, enterprise systems or hybrids. The SOI ecosystem will be hearing a lot more about this.
Please note that the China event presentations are all available on our website to anyone whose company or organization is a member of the SOI Consortium.