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16 February 2009


RFMD claims first converged 3G/4G cellular front-end covering nine bands

At this week’s 2009 GSMA Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, RF Micro Devices Inc of Greensboro, NC, USA announced that it is sampling its most highly integrated and scalable 3G/4G cellular front-end platform to lead customers and platform providers (with broad market availability expected in second-half 2009).

The RF6460 features an ultra-compact ‘converged’ multi-band, multi-mode architecture (2G/2.5G/3G/4G) that delivers what is claimed to be best-in-class efficiency, eases implementation, shrinks solution size and reduces component placements compared to mode-specific and band-specific architectures. It is also claimed to be the only converged architecture capable of supporting up to nine cellular bands. The RF6460 hence simplifies the design, reduces the cost and accelerates the implementation of 3G and 4G multi-mode mobile devices, the firm says.

The converged front-end platform consists of the RF6260 multi-band, multi-mode power amplifier (PA) module, the RF6360 antenna switch module (ASM), and the RF6560 front-end power management IC. With the broadband, multi-mode characteristics of the RF6260 and the flexibility of the RF6560, the RF6460 converged front-end platform delivers a scalable front-end solution that simultaneously supports the implementation of up to five WCDMA/HSPA+/LTE bands (three high bands and two low bands) and all four bands of GSM/GPRS/EDGE in 3G/4G multi-mode mobile devices. Mobile device makers can implement most 3G/4G band and mode combinations by selecting the appropriate band-specific duplexers to place with the RF6460. The RF6460 supports all major air interface standards in multi-mode devices, including GSM/GPRS, EDGE, CDMA, TD-SCDMA (3G), WCDMA/HSPA+ (3G), and LTE (4G).

The RF6460 streamlines the design of 3G/4G multimode handset platforms by shrinking the solution size, reducing overall component count, and optimizing efficiency for all modes and power levels, says Eric Creviston, president of RFMD’s Cellular Products Group (CPG). “This enables platform providers and phone manufacturers to accelerate time-to-market of next-generation 3G and 4G multi-mode devices that can deliver greater talk times at lower costs and in smaller form factors,” he adds.

The RF6460 platform uses two quadrature (or ‘balanced’) amplification paths (one low-band and one high-band) capable of operating in bands 1-6 and 8-10 while in WCDMA/HSPA+/LTE mode. It also optimizes PA efficiency and linearity according to the needs of each mode of operation and uses patent-pending DC-DC conversion technology to intelligently and dynamically control PA operating conditions. The platform hence maximizes efficiency across power levels, across data rates (voice-only to LTE) and during non-ideal load conditions (i.e. antenna mismatch) by responding quickly to load and line transients. This helps extend battery life and significantly reduces average thermal dissipation, both of which are critical metrics to 3G/4G handset manufacturers, says RFMD.

RFMD expands FEM portfolio for mobile Wi-Fi

RFMD has also expanded its Wi-Fi product portfolio by making available samples of three new highly integrated front-end modules (FEMs) designed to address the growing need for high performance and continued size reductions in 802.11b/g/n-enabled mobile devices, including handsets, personal navigation devices (PNDs), digital cameras and MP3 players.

Within their compact 3.0mm x 3.0mm x 0.5mm low-profile packages, the RF5325, RF5345, and RF5725 FEMs each contain a 2.4GHz power amplifier (PA) to optimize linearity (3.3% error vector magnitude) while minimizing current consumption. Each integrates an output power coupler, transmit (Tx) low-pass filtering, and a single-pole three-throw (SP3T) switch capable of switching between Wi-Fi receive (Rx), Wi-Fi Tx, and Bluetooth Rx/Tx operations.

RFMD reckons that the integrated coupler significantly lowers bill-of-material (BOM) costs and reduces the board area necessary for front-end implementation in chipsets that use closed-loop power control to adjust output power. The RF5345 and RF5725 also integrate a low-noise amplifier (LNA) for RF architectures requiring additional Rx gain.

“These highly integrated FEMs offer mobile device designers a single-placement front-end solution that reduces footprint and minimizes component count while delivering an optimal blend of high linearity and low power consumption,” says Rohan Houlden, general manager of RFMD’s Wireless Connectivity business unit.

RFMD anticipates revenue generated by its Wi-Fi front-end portfolio to grow throughout 2009.

Low-cost 2G dual-band transmit modules for emerging market handsets

RFMD has also launched the RF716x family of dual-band (EGSM900/DCS1800 or GSM850/PCS1900) GSM/GPRS transmit modules, designed to meet the front-end requirements of emerging markets handsets (including reduced solution size, improved efficiency and robust ESD protection) while satisfying the need for quality, reliability and reduced handset bill-of-material (BOM) costs.

Each compact, low-profile (6.63mm x 5.24mm x 1.00mm) transmit module (TxM) is class 12-compliant and features two symmetrical (interchangeable) receive (Rx) ports (with low insertion loss) for ease of routing during implementation.

The product family includes functionally identical TxMs with ‘mirrored’ footprints (RF7166/RF7168 mirror for GSM900/DCS1800 and RF7167/RF7169 mirror for GSM850/PCS1900), maximizing layout design flexibility and easing implementation across handset platforms.

Each RF716x TxM leverages RFMD’s GaAs pHEMT and patented PowerStar integrated power control technology while integrating transmit filtering for what is claimed to be best-in-class harmonic performance.

“The RF716x family of high performance transmit modules helps manufacturers of emerging market handsets lower their bill of material (BOM) costs, reduce size and accelerate product time-to-market without sacrificing the quality and reliability,” says Paul Augustine, general manager of RFMD’s Components Solutions business unit. “The RF7168 is achieving very favorable design activity among both handset manufacturers and platform providers in Korea, Taiwan and China,” he adds.

All RF716x TxMs include an electrostatic discharge (ESD) filter to provide antenna port ESD protection at a rating of 8kV contact discharge (CD) - twice the integrated protection offered by competing products, it is claimed. The ESD protection is integrated to help handset makers prevent ESD failures during handset production while minimizing signal loss, providing maximum efficiency at rated output power (Pout) and consistent reliability.

The RF7168 (EGSM900/DCS1800) TxM is the first available product in the RF716x family. Samples of the RF7166, RF7167 and RF7169 are expected to be available in the March quarter. Each TxM is priced under $1 in quantities of 10,000.

Based on current design activity, RFMD anticipates revenue from the RF716x family to commence in first-half 2009.

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