11 March 2020
Tower’s SiGe technology adopted by Renesas for production of SatCom RFICs
Specialty foundry Tower Semiconductor Ltd (which has fabrication plants in Migdal Haemek, Israel, and at its US subsidiaries in Newport Beach, CA and San Antonio, TX, and at TowerJazz Japan Ltd) says that its silicon germanium (SiGe) BiCMOS platform has been selected for the development and production of Renesas Electronics’ beam-forming and amplifier RFICs for phased-array antenna applications.
Phased-array antennas – or, more specifically, active electronically scanned arrays (AESAs) - have been a staple of the defense industry for over 40 years, but are now rapidly emerging in the commercial marketplace due to the exponentially growing demands for connectivity. These antennas will be critical to the enablement of high-data-rate, low-latency connectivity in the air, at sea and on the ground, taking advantage of the rapid growth in throughput from existing GEO and emerging non-geostationary (NGSO) LEO/MEO satellite networks.
“In migrating to AESAs from mechanical antennas, our customers require reliable, compact and cost-effective ICs with exceptionally low power consumption and noise figure that meet their system EIRP (equivalent isotropically radiated power) and G/T requirements,” says Naveen Yanduru, VP of RF Communications, Industrial and Communications Business Division at Renesas. “Thanks to the strong collaboration between Tower Semiconductor and our world-class design team, we are exceeding our customer’s expectations by all metrics and progressing rapidly into production.”
By leveraging its high-performance SiGe BiCMOS technology, Renesas is able to achieve unprecedented levels of integration, says Tower. For example, the Renesas 8-channel transmit IC has a footprint of only 2mm2 per transmit channel and consumes less than 100mW, while delivering 10dBm of output power. Several design parameters had to be pushed to their limits to achieve these results and required a close collaboration between the companies to ensure the accuracy of design models and first-pass success. During early development, the Renesas design team also took advantage of the flexibility and customization of the Tower process offerings to identify the optimal compromise between cost and performance.
“This complements the booming opportunities we see for similar phased-array products in 5G mmWave and automotive radar where SiGe offers dramatically lower power consumption than alternatives while preserving the ability for high levels of integration and low cost,” says Marco Racanelli, Tower Semiconductor’s senior VP & general manager of Analog IC business unit.
By some estimates, the SatCom market is projected to rise at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 10% to $50bn by 2027. In the same timeframe, the number of satellites is projected to triple from about 8000 to 24,000, driven primarily by growth in NGSO communications satellites providing ubiquitous high-data-rate and low-latency communications. This is expected to fuel a transition from fixed and mechanically steered antennas to electronically steered antennas, creating a significant market for beam-forming ICs.