Japan Symposium ‘19 Summaries Part 1 – 5G/RF-SOI
Posted date : Dec 18, 2019

The SOI Consortium’s Japan Symposium this past fall covered a wide array of topics over two days. The first day was devoted to IP and products for RF and ultra-low-power (ULP) on SOI. The second day covered high voltage and photonics. It will take several posts to summarize all the presentations. In this post, we’ll cover presentations related to 5G. In the next posts we’ll cover IoT/ultra-low-power/automotive and photonics. (BTW, if your company is a member of the SOI Consortium, you can now access most of these presentations on our website.)

The Japan SOI Symposium was organized for the 4th time at the Yokohama Landmark Tower (from which there was a fabulous view of Mount Fuji). It was a great success, with both days well attended. The event followed the day after (and in the same location as) Silvaco’s SURGE user event, so there were plenty of opportunities for synergy there. (Samsung Foundry talked about their partnership with Silvaco, for example, and their work together on RF and eMRAM on 28nm FD-SOI.)


From “5G Deployment Driving RF and SOI Technology Opportunity” (Courtesy: ST & SOI Consortium)

As noted in the ST presentation, 5G standards are getting a big push in the Asia-Pacific region, and by China in particular, which is leaping ahead especially in sub-6GHz. It’s a complex standard, noted John Carey, the company’s director of Digital & RF for the A-P region, and it’s disruptive, demanding new silicon architectures and technologies. Next year’s premium phones, he said, will include over $30 in RF components, >40mm2 of which will be based on SOI. ST has been working on RF-SOI for over two decades, and offers a range of technologies and foundry services supported by three high-volume fabs. The key benefits with RF-SOI, he explained, stem from RF FEM integration of switches, LNAs and PAs. RF-SOI technologies are here now and are successful in the markets: ST has a long-term technology roadmap and is making continued strategic investments, he concluded.



From “RF-SOI Switch & LNA for Mobile Applications” (Courtesy: Toshiba & SOI Consortium)

Another long-time RF-SOI user is Toshiba, although this marked their first participation in a recent Consortium event. As Group Manager Kazuyuki Uchida talked about RF techology trends, there was lots of note- and picture-taking in the audience. He pointed out that the character and size of the switch LNA modules are particularly important in the move to 5G. They’ve been leveraging their TaRFSOI(tm) process, which he said achieves the industry’s lowest insertion loss, for about a decade now. The latest version, TaRF11 will be launching in Q1 of 2020. TaRF10 integrated the LNA with the switch and control circuitry in a single chip. TaRF11 will feature performance improved by about 25%.


From “RF Characterization” (Courtesy: Incize and SOI Consortium)

During the Incize presentation, the company’s CEO Mostafa Emam affirmed that RF-SOI is a very good business opportunity. Incize works with the complete supply chain. For foundries and wafer suppliers, they measure harmonics and output with very high precision, which is especially critical for switches. For the wafer suppliers, it’s predictive. For the foundries, it’s measuring noise for models and PDKs. While RF may be an art, second tier foundries using Incize services are now able to compete with the first tier players, he noted. He sees trap-rich RF-SOI wafers as being especially important for 5G.


From “RF Reliability for SOI CMOS Si-based Power Amplifier for 5G applications” (Courtesy: GlobalFoundries & SOI Consortium)

The focus of the GlobalFoundries talk was reliability in RF processes. In 5G, you need technologies that are viable for both mmWave and sub-6GHz across handsets, wifi and automotive, noted Purushothaman Srinivasan (who goes by SP and is a senior member of the company’s technical staff). In SOI, you can stack FETs (which you can’t do in bulk) for PAs, which is a big advantage in mmWave. However, delivering scalable, linear, efficient and reliable RF power technology is more challenging than digital, and requires a holistic, collaborative approach that includes the foundry, the customers and the test equipment suppliers. GF has used its RelXpert simulation tool on aging simulations and lifetime predictions for both their 22FDX and 45RFSOI processes. They have observed good RF model-to-hardware correlation, and have built Safe Operating Maps that provide guidance to RF designs. This first-in-industry RF reliability evaluation provides “highly differentiated” solutions for GF.


From “RFSOI TCAD Solution” (Courtesy: Silvaco and SOI Consortium)

Silvaco is a leading EDA provider of software tools used for process and device development and for analog/mixed-signal, power IC and memory design. Their presentation began with a review of recent updates to their TCAD simulation framework, including the TCAD design flow, Victory ProcessTM simulation for speeding up 2D/3D process simulations, and Victory DeviceTM simulation. Under Silvaco’s DTCO – Design Technology Co-Optimization – semiconductor physics are connected to circuit design, recognizing that each technology has specific requirements that need to be taken into account at every stage of the flow. Applications Engineer Sun Tao then continued by showing useful TCAD simulations and analysis of SOI for RF applications. In trap-rich substrate simulations, for example, the Silvaco tools can predict the harmonic balance from the active device, device biasing and substrate, all of which can be co-optimized using Victory Process and Device.


From “NB IoT FEM based on SOI” (Courtesy: SITRI & SOI Consortium)

Shanghai Industrial μTechnology Research Institute – aka SITRI – is an international innovation center, focused on globally accelerating the innovation and commercialization of “More than Moore” technologies to power IoT. SITRI Director Wenwei Yang’s talk focused on their narrowband front-end module for IoT (NB IoT FEM). NB-IoT is especially meant to handle small amounts of data from remote places over long periods. There are a lot of players in this market, so taking a “good-enough” approach to performance wherein cost is primordial is key. SITRI’s low-cost NB-IoT FEM integrates everything on a single chip, including the power amplifier (PA) and integrated passive devices (IPD), so packaging costs are low. Putting it on SOI (either trap-rich or high-resistivity) gives them better isolation and simplifies integration.

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Our next post will continue our coverage of the Japan Symposium.

Note: 2019 marks a decade of SOI Consortium events – yes, our first one was in 2009! Because a lot of the presentations in the past were so forward-looking, many of them are still of great interest today. Currently the presentations from 2015 through to the beginning of 2019 are available freely to everyone – and are well worth perusing.

About the author

Adele Hars editor