Microwave Journal

Peregrine Semiconductor introduces first reconfigurable RF front-end system

February 4, 2014

Peregrine Semiconductor Corp. has announced UltraCMOS®Global 1, claimed to be the first reconfigurable RF front end (RFFE). For the first time, 4G LTE platform providers and OEMs will be able to save time and money by creating a single-SKU design for global markets.

To support over 40 frequency bands and a more than 5,000-fold increase in the number of possible operating states, a truly reconfigurable RFFE is now a requirement. This level of reconfigurability is only feasible with a CMOS process. Global 1’s entire system – multimode, multiband (MMMB) power amplifier; post-PA switch; antenna switch; and antenna tuner, on a single chip – is based on Peregrine’s UltraCMOS 10 technology platform.

In addition, Global 1 is said to feature the industry’s first LTE CMOS PA with the same raw performance as the leading GaAs PAs and has a 33% efficiency increase over other CMOS PAs.

“For years RF engineers have been looking for an integrated, CMOS RF front-end offering that performs as well as GaAs for mobile devices,” said Joe Madden, founder and principal analyst at Mobile Experts. “Peregrine’s UltraCMOS technology has demonstrated GaAs-level efficiency performance at high power, which could be a game-changer.”

According to Mobile Experts, the RFFE market is projected to grow from $6.1 billion in 2013 to $12.2 billion in 2018. Much of this growth stems from demand in the LTE market and the impact the RFFE has on the overall performance in mobile devices.

On a single chip, the Global 1 RFFE system delivers the scalability to easily support higher band counts through low-loss switching and tunability; high isolation to solve interoperability issues; simple, digitally-controlled adaptation across modes and bands; and, most importantly, PA performance equivalent to GaAs.

“Creating a global, single-SKU design for LTE devices is currently the toughest, unmet challenge in RF,” said Jim Cable, CEO at Peregrine Semiconductor. “Peregrine was founded with a vision for integration, and, after shipping 2 billion switches and tuners, we are proud to announce a truly integrated RF front-end system that enables a single, global SKU.”

Before now, no vendor has been able to deliver GaAs-level PA performance in a CMOS PA, which prevented CMOS PAs from competing in the performance-driven LTE handset market. The Global 1 system integrates Peregrine’s established, best-in-class RF switches and tuners seamlessly with the first CMOS PA to match the performance of GaAs PAs. This level of performance is reached without enhancements from envelope tracking or digital predistortion, which is often used when benchmarking CMOS PAs with GaAs PAs.

A standard industry benchmark for PA performance is Power-Added Efficiency (PAE) using a WCDMA (voice) waveform at an Adjacent Channel Leakage Ratio (ACLR) of -38 dBc. Under these conditions, the performance of the UltraCMOS Global 1 PA approaches 50% PAE. Further, the UltraCMOS Global 1 PA maintains GaAs-equivalent PAE for LTE waveforms with varying resource-block allocations.

While the UltraCMOS Global 1 PA reaches GaAs-competitive performance levels without the use of envelope tracking, the system natively supports all major envelope tracking solutions currently on the market. The PAE at saturated power (PSAT) provides a good indication on what PAE is possible using an envelope tracking modulator, however, the efficiency enhancements that envelope tracking brings are very band specific. With an envelope tracker, the system efficiency of UltraCMOS Global 1 typically increases 10 percentage points, depending on band.