IMS 2012, Day 3: A Sea of Semiconductor Vendors

June 21, 2012
Think plumbing when you think of microwaves. At least that is the way it used to be. Lots of waveguides and metal structures with cavities. And tubes. Today much of that plumbing is still around for some applications. Now it is less plumbing and more ...
Think plumbing when you think of microwaves. At least that is the way it used to be. Lots of waveguides and metal structures with cavities. And tubes. Today much of that plumbing is still around for some applications. Now it is less plumbing and more solid state devices For that reason, the semiconductor vendors were out in force for IMS. All the majors were represented and I was unable to get around to all of them. Here is a quickie summary of what I saw.

The emphasis this year was clearly on power amplifiers and devices with GaN being the star of the show. I knew that GaN was growing in popularity but this must be the year of GaN. And what better place than a microwave conference to show its capabilities? Yet, GaAs and SiGe:C are still very much in play at these frequencies. GaN is still expensive but as volumes grow, no doubt prices will tumble bring it to more applications.

Anadigics has been making GaAs power amplifiers for a long time and they have chips in many existing cell phones. At IMS they introduced a new line of ProEficient PAs using HBT InGaP. This are designed to be using in the forthcoming small cell sites for LTE and WCDMA. They offer an output power for 28.5 dBm with great linearity and power efficiency of about 48% at full power. They are available for the most popular cellular bands.

Analog Devices introduced a whole series of new part for microwave products. They include a new AD9914 DDS synthesizer with a clock rate to 3.5 GSPS and 64 bit resolution. Another new part is the ADF4159 13 GHz PLL synthesizer. Also new is the AD9128 16-bit 1.25 GSPS DAC with the JESD204 serial interface that is becoming popular. Finally, ADI announced a new joint relationship with Avnet Electronics to offer the Zynq 7000 SDR design kit.

Avago introduced a new line of GaAs power amplifiers for picocells and interprise femtocells with a gain range of 34 to 40 dB and a power up to 27.3 dBm at 13.8 to 15% efficiency. These operate from 5 volts and have excellent linearity of 50 dBc. Another new product series is a line of LNAs for cellular basestations, remote radio heads, tower mounted amplifiers and combiners. Each part covers several of the standard mobile bands. Also shown was a combined hybrid filter-amplifier for GPS/GNSS radios in tablets, cell phones and other nav devices. It uses Avago's famous FBAR filters and a low noise GaAs amplifier with great sensitivity.

I met quickly with CREE. I normally think of CREE in relationship with the LED lighting space with its famous blue and white LEDs. Yet because of similar semiconductor technology and processing they are also a major GaN provider. They have devices in the DC to 6 GHz range with power levels from 6 to 25 watts, and 120 to 180 watt devices up to 2.4 GHz. Some devices deliver 25 watts to 18 GHz.

Freescale had a major presence at IMS. They showed their line of LDMOS transistors and amplifiers. Freescale has been making LDMOS as far back as when it was known as Motorola. They make a wide range of their Airfast LDMOS devices for HF, VHF, UHF and low microwaves to about 3 GHz with a wide range of power levels. One neat product line is their Doherty amplifier modules that deliver high power with great linearity and good efficiency. Freescale introduced three new 28 volt LDMOS amplifiers and a GaAs MMIC for basestations. Freescale also showed their new line of power GaAs pHEMT transistors with power levels to the 27 to 30 dBm range with frequencies up to 5 GHz.

I loved Freescale's demo of microwave ovens made with Chinese partner Midea. They are using LDMOS power transistors to make 150, 300 and 600 watt microwave ovens operating at the traditional ISM frequency of 2.45 GHz. Maybe the magnetrons used today along with their 4 kV power supplies will finally be fading away.

Freescale also introduced their first GaN products. One of them is a 350 device for the 2.3 to 2.7 GHz range for basestations. Freescale is a firm believer that there is a place of all of the power technologies like LDMOS, GaAs and GaN. You just have to discover what part is best for you depending upon your frequency of operation, power level, voltages, efficiency needs and cost. Look for the crossover and overlap points to find several choices.

Infineon had an interesting mix of products on display. I saw their new 50 volt 1 kW 1030-1090 MHz LDMOS FET. Even with GaN coming on strong, LDMOS is holding its own in the low end microwave region. It is hard to beat for many applications simply because it has been so optimized and fine tuned over the years. I also saw Infineon's new 840 RF transistor. It is a SiGe:C HBT with an fT of 80 GHz. Amazing. Infineon was also showing their forthcoming 24 GHz transceiver chip set for using the industrial and automotive sensing and radar applications.

Integra is an interesting company dedicated to GaN and LDMOS. They offer a wide range of devices and introduced three new devices for the L, S and C bands with power levels to 350 watts.

I met briefly with Microsemi. I got a quickie introduction to their very extensive line of microwave amplifiers and related components. They are one of the many showing their GaN parts and amplifiers.

I did not get the details but I did see NXPs line of basestation devices made with SiGe:C. They too make GaN devices and have been for years. Their predecessor Philips made GaN many years ago.

RFMD introduced a whole batch of new products as well. Some examples are new front end modules (FEMs) for 802.11n and 802.11ac. These include LAN, PA and switches in a single QFN package. Another introduction was a new line of GaAs power amplifiers in the 1 watt+ range for the 10 to 20 GHz range to serve the point-to-point radio market. RFMD also also showed off their GaN power transistor family that targets pulsed radar applicaiotns. They can achieve power level of 280 watts with a gain of 14 dB and a peak efficiency of 55%+.

Skyworks had a big presence at IMS as well. They make an extended line of LNAs, switches and front-end modules for handsets, basestations and Wi-Fi products. They also make a mix of Schottky, varactor, limiter and PIN diodes as well as attenuators. They introduced some new LNAs and high power switches.

This was Texas Instruments first time at IMS. They introduced the FMC30RF transceiver. It is a wide band RF transceiver with an FMC FPGA connector. It has full transmit and receive paths on a board and makes design, breadboarding and testing fast and easy. The transceiver is designed to match up with Altera's 28 nm Arria V FPGAs to be used for digital pre-distortion applications in basestations.

Toshiba also has GaN devices but is still a big believer in GaAs technology. They introduced three new products at the show. These include a very high gain 16 watt GaAs amplifier for the C band and a 25 watt X band device for pulsed radar arrays. The most amazing new device (to me) was their new Ka band (29-31 GHz) GaN device that delivers 15 watts at 20% efficiency for satellite service.

I did not get a chance to speak with TriQuint but they too make an extensive line of GaN devices.

I wanted to get around to the cable and connector folks but ran out of time. I did get a brief update from Molex a long time connector maker. They now make a full range of microwave connectors and as well as some small cables thanks to a recent cable manufacturer acquisition. The SMA connector still rules the microwave space but new ones keep getting smaller. I saw one about the size of a ball point pen point. And I did see some new metal coated plastic connectors that I did not know existed.

I also missed one test equipment manufacturer I wanted to cover yesterday. That is Noise XT's new NXA phase noise analyzer. With phase noise becoming continuously more difficult to measure, the NXA is the go-to instrument for frequencies up to 6, 26 and 50 GHz models. Their box has a 14 inch screen and the industry's lowest noise floor.

IMS is a great focused RF and microwave show. If you are an RF engineer you need to go to at least one of these. They is no larger show with such a massive concentration of RF and microwave stuff. It is in Seattle next year.

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