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IMS 2020: Novel RF Switch Technology for 5G Devices

Aug. 5, 2020
The contract chip manufacturer said the new RF switch technology has the most advanced RF figure of merit on the market, giving the resulting devices improved insertion loss and a very small footprint.

Tower Semiconductor introduced a new radio frequency (RF) switch technology targeted at 5G smartphones and the cellular base stations that connect them to the ultrafast networks.

The contract chip manufacturer said the new RF switch technology would open the door to more energy-efficient RF system architectures. The said the switch is capable of supporting the full range of frequency used by 5G networks, spanning from the sub-6 GHz bands and millimeter waves. 5G technology can deliver far faster data transfers than 4G LTE networks.

More than 50 frequency bands are used by 4G networks around the world. But that total could grow to between 75 and 100 bands—with more than 10,000 band combinations—as 5G networks are deployed. More RF electronics, ranging from switches and filters to power amplifiers and tuners, all packaged into modules that connect the baseband modem to the antennas—are needed to accommodate all the frequency bands used by 5G.

The company, a leading analog semiconductor foundry, said the new RF switch technology provides a record RF figure of merit: Ron x Coff less than 10 femtoseconds. That contrasts with 70 to 100 femtoseconds in use today for the most advanced applications. The result is improved insertion loss and a very small device footprint, Tower Semiconductor said.

The switch technology is nonvolatile so it consumes no power when in the on-state or off-state, meaning it can be used in Internet of Things devices with limited battery life, Tower Semiconductor said. The company said it has the ability to integrate the RF switches with other production processes it offers customers, including SiGe BiCMOS and power CMOS.

The company rolls out chips based on its SiGe, BiCMOS, RF CMOS, CMOS image sensor, integrated power management, MEMS and other production processes. The made-to-order chip manufacturer operates a pair of production plants in Israel (150mm and 200mm), another pair in the US (200-mm) and three fabs in Japan (two 200-mm and one 300-mm).

Tower Semiconductor said it is in the process of bringing the new RF switch technology to market, and that it plans to start production of the switches for lead customers in 2021.

The company introduced the new RF switches at the virtual IMS trade conference Monday.

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