Mobile World Congress 2017 was all about 5G and getting real. Although there is still much hype in the market, actual trials are underway and companies are getting realistic with what can be rolled out first and the progression of technologies needed to work their way into full 5G deployment. 5G connections are forecast to reach 1.1 B by 2025 according to a study made by MWC2017outsideGSMA with wide deployment expected by 2020. The first 5G application being targeted seems to be fixed wireless access for certain locations. Verizon has the jump on everyone launching more than 10 city trials in the USA by June. This is part of the 5G Technology Forum effort supported by several companies such as Cisco, Ericsson, Intel, LG, Nokia, Qualcomm and Samsung. They will be using 28 and 39 GHz phased array technology in the tests.

Just before the event started, 22 mobile communications companies announced collective support for accelerating the 5G new radio (NR) standardization schedule to enable large-scale trials and deployments as early as 2019. The firms are supporting a proposal for the first phase of the 5G NR specification, to be discussed at the next 3GPP RAN plenary meeting. The companies comprising the consortium are AT&T, British Telecom, Deutsche Telekom, Ericsson, Etisalat Group, Huawei, Intel, KDDI, Korea Telecom, LG Electronics, LG Uplus, NTT DOCOMO, Qualcomm Technologies, SK Telecom, Sprint, Swisscom, Telia Company, Telstra, TIM, Vivo, Vodafone and ZTE. The first 3GPP 5G NR specification will be part of Release 15 and based on the current 3GPP Release 15 timeline, the earliest 5G NR deployments based on standard-compliant 5G NR infrastructure and devices will likely be in 2020. 5G Americas (the industry trade association and voice of 5G and LTE for the Americas) announced the publication of Wireless Technology Evolution Towards 5G: 3GPP Release 13 to Release 15 and Beyond that outlines the progress and evolution of LTE technology and the developing 5G standards. The 5G Americas white paper provides a detailed discussion on the key feature enhancements that were included in 3GPP Rel-13 to Rel-15.

IoTA similar track is being followed with IoT as Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) providers that are developing sensible plans for wide scale deployment. The main question is how the proprietary networks will stack up against standard cellular versions now ready to compete with them. And cost is an issue still being address by the networks and device manufacturers.  Strategy Analytics forecasts that IoT cellular devices will transition from a 4G air interface to 5G through 2025, with shipments of 4G IoT modules peaking within two years. 5G modules will begin shipping in 2019 and outsell 4G modules in 2024. Total shipments will exceed 190 million in 2025. The automotive vertical market will remain the single largest consumer of IoT cellular modules during the forecast period and will significantly increase its market share by 2025.

The connected vehicle was a hot topic at MWC as many automotive manufacturers were present. BMW attended for the first time doing live outside demonstrations of autonomous parking. Telefónica and Ericsson, in partnership with KTH and Idiada, showcased the potential of 5G networks with a demo the used Telefonica’s trial 5G network to drive a car prototyped by KTH at Idiada’s race track in Tarragona, Spain, from remote locations at Fira (in Telefónica and Ericsson’s booths). The demo used 15 GHz signals with narrow beams that follow the car / prototype continuously from the 5G base station in order to ensure the reliability and ultra-low latency required by the whole network that connects the cars with the Fira. There were many other remote and autonomous car demos, too many to mention here.

While all of the talk of MWC 2017 was about 5G and IoT, for Microwave Journal it was the unprecedented level of integration at the device level that was the most interesting. GLOBALFOUNDRIES’ release of 45nm RF SOI; Xilinx 16nm All Programmable RFSoCs; Anokiwave/Ball’s, UCSD/TowerJazz’s, and IBM/Ericsson’s 32 element - 28 GHz phased arrays; IDT’s mmWave dual modem; and Cambridge Consultant’s all digital single chip radio are examples of innovations and technologies that will enable the future of wireless. Only with these high levels of integration and innovative radio architectures will the industry achieve the cost and performance levels needed to realize the 5G and IoT goals in the future.

Microwave Journal created the follow photo gallery from our travels about Barcelona and MWC 2017:

Microwave Journal filmed 8 video demos and 2 executive interviews at MWC 2017. Here are those videos along with previous years:

Here are some highlights from the big companies and organizations at the event which was all about 5G, IoT and Cloud technologies:

Ericsson and China Mobile jointly developed a 5G-enabled Smart Factory prototype using key 5G Core Network technology - Network Slicing. The demo simulated the assembly line in the Smart Factory environment, enabled by the 5G connected industry standard PLC connections. More cellular IoT use cases for Smart Cities, Fleet Management, Smart Buildings, Smart Agriculture, and manufacturing enabled by Cat-M1 and NB-IoT technologies were on display jointly with leading operators and ecosystem partners. Ericsson also showcased its frontrunner 5G solutions with use cases and proof points. In another live demonstration with Intel, the cross-vendor 5G over-the-air 28GHz trial radio and device platform was running, with Ericsson's 5G Test Bed and Intel's 5G Mobile Test Platform.  Ericsson also showcased of Gigabit Class LTE. Ericsson and Sprint jointly demonstrated LTE technology advances to show 1 Gbps class performance over 60 MHz of LTE TDD spectrum, an industry first. Using both licensed and unlicensed spectrum, Ericsson, AT&T, Orange and Qualcomm Technologies showed Gigabit Class LTE as a way to increase capacity and improve performance across existing networks.

HuaweiHuawei announced the Huawei P10 and P10 Plus phones and Huawei Watch 2 and Classic. They also featured their CloudAIR solution that supports cloud-based sharing of air interface resources like spectrum, power and channels. Their CloudRAN centralizes and coordinates resource allocation, allowing for greater elasticity and more flexible management. CloudRAN enables end-to-end network slicing, laying the foundation for better user experience and business potential. They are working with C-Band which is the first globally harmonized frequency band set aside for commercial 5G use and working on mmWave frequency solutions.

Nokia released 4 phones and was featuring many network related technologies such as Commercial 5G FIRST and 5G for the home - mostly focusing on VR applications; IoT for industrial/public safety/energy/healthcare; and the first live demonstration of full in cloud technology running 2G/3G/4G and 5G together using AirScale Cloud RAN. Their theme was enabling the 4th industrial revolution with wireless.

Qualcomm announced the expansion of its Snapdragon X50 5G modem family to include 5G New Radio (NR) multi-mode chipset solutions. According to the company it will be compliant with the 3GPP-based 5G NR global system. Supporting sub-6 GHz frequencies and multi-band millimeter wave spectrum, the new modems come with a unified 5G design for all major spectrum types and bands.  The X50 5G modem family will also provide wider bandwidths and high speeds for enhanced mobile broadband. They were also featuring the various applications where their Snapdragon processors are being used from drones to mobile devices among many other displays of their technology.

ZTE launched the first gigabit phone and is the first device with Qualcomm’s latest CPU Snapdragon 835 with X16 LTE modem for achieving extremely fast connectivity - over ten times than previous LTE devices. It has 4x4 MIMO antenna technology and 256-QM modulation to achieve massive download speeds. ZTE independently developed its Pre5G Giga+ MBB solution and also demonstrated it at the event. So the race is one for the first 5G phone. In news just prior to the event, ZTE announced it is one of the first group of companies that completed the China 5G Experimental Trials in phase I, and accredited by IMT2020(5G) Promotion Group with the official certificate of 5G technologies experiments. ZTE’s mmWave 5G BTS prototype is now under test in the China 5G Experimental Trials phase II.

We met with many of the RF and microwave companies in the exhibition; here is a summary of what we saw:


AnritsuAnritsu showcased the Spectrum Master™ MS2760A family of mmWave spectrum analyzers that verify high frequency designs, including those used in 5G and E-Band applications. Leveraging the company’s NLTL Shockline technology the MS2760A improves test procedures and lowers the cost-of-test in other fast-growing mmWave applications such as 802.11ad/WiGig, satellite communications, electronic warfare, and automotive radar. There are models to support 32 GHz, 44 GHz, 50 GHz, 70 GHz, and 110 GHz frequencies. A 90 GHz model is also available for countries where an export license is required for analyzers above 90 GHz. The company has also expanded its CPRI RF field handheld analyzer portfolio to address the emerging requirements associated with testing high speed LTE base stations. Among the enhancements is the ability to display four unique AxC traces, as well as support for CPRI Line Rate 8 and 20 MHz compression. Available on select Anritsu Site Master™, BTS Master™, Spectrum Master™, and Cell Master™ instruments, the new capabilities provide wireless carrier technicians, engineers and wireless contractors with the necessary tools to install and verify CPRI-based radios using optical fiber, SFPs, and RRHs, as well as to solve problems during installation and maintenance.

Cobham Wireless demonstrated the first software-defined 5G user equipment (UE) simulator, based on Verizon’s open 5G standard, which can test downlink throughput of 10 Gbps and support multiple simultaneous 5G air interfaces that are compatible with various wireless standards, including 3GPP’s 5G New Radio (5GNR). The solution features programmable data logging and signal visualization capabilities to enable early 5G air interface integration testing and debugging. The demonstration was in collaboration with National Instruments, which provided the 5G programmable radio frequency front-end PoC solution. The company also partnered with China Mobile to demonstrate an LTE-Advanced (LTE-A) Dual Connectivity system for 4G and 5G networks. Using the Cobham TM500 network testing solution the partnership was able to show a real-time working dual connectivity system and demonstrate how dual/multi connectivity can be achieved in a live network environment. Finally, the company showcased an IoT proof-of-concept (PoC) solution, which is able to emulate up to one million 5G IoT devices, validating network performance in preparation for IoT connectivity.

Keysight Technologies was displaying a wide variety of test/measurement solutions including:

  • Verification of NB-IoT Device Compliance and Battery Life - Keysight introduced the NB-IoT test solution covering from design to operator’s acceptance, based on the E7515A UXM, and used by chipset and device engineers implementing the cellular IoT technology NB-IoT based on 3GPP Release 13 standards.
  • Validation of 8x8 802.11ax Chipset Capability - The WLAN industry is quickly advancing to 802.11ax that offers significant advances in system capacity by increasing the modulation format and carrier density by four times. Keysight's new R&D solution offers very good EVM performance for 802.11ax and supports up to 8x8 MIMO.
  • 5G Air Interface QoS via Fronthaul Monitoring - Wireless Fronthaul Network monitoring enables operators to get significant insight regarding the quality of service and customer experience, and help measure, improve and troubleshoot fronthaul operation. The Keysight solution provides a real-time dashboard of 5G Fronthaul control plane with continuous monitoring of DCI messages.
  • 5G MIMO Beamforming Performance Simulation and Verification - Using the Keysight wideband real time beamforming solution, researchers can build Massive MIMO with beamforming to test their analog, digital or hybrid beamforming system fast and accurately, including real time beam simulation and beam tracking with RF channel IQ constellation, EVM, Antenna pattern and Beam weight information. Phased arrays from Anokiwave and UCSD were being used in the demo operating at 28 GHz.
  • Verification of Real-World Connected Car Performance - The Virtual Drive Testing (VDT) Toolset is an automated, realistic and accurate field-to-lab test solution for testing connected car and mobile devices. It enables to replicate drive test conditions by using field data to create test cases that are replayed in a repeatable and controllable laboratory environment.
  • Reduce OPEX with Real-Time Monitoring and Call Trace Based Optimization of Wireless Networks - Keysight Nemo Wireless Network Solutions offers two different kinds of solutions for reducing OPEX and increasing the customer experience. Their autonomous unattended testing solution, Nemo Cloud with Nemo Autonomous Probe, enables full automation of network measurement projects, which in turn brings down the need for resources, directly reducing your OPEX.

Here is an interview we did with SVP of Worldwide Sales, Mark Wallace.

Narda intends to hunt for business with the new SignalShark Real Time Handheld Analyzer that covers a 9 kHz to 8 GHz frequency range and has a robust design that conforms to MIL standards. Whether making a wideband measurement of an entire frequency range, or detecting hidden signals, or reliably capturing very short impulses, or localizing interference signals, with a real time bandwidth of 40 MHz the SignalShark provides comprehensive measurement solutions for the increasingly complex RF spectrum. The modern user interface of the instrument combines with its 10.4″ touch screen to give intuitive operation of the large number of measurement and analysis functions, while two Li-ion batteries can be hot swapped during operation, making it possible to operate the device for long periods.

NINational Instruments announced NI-RFmx 2.2, the latest version of its advanced measurement software for PXI RF test systems. When used with the second-generation PXI Vector Signal Transceiver (VST), engineers can test 4.5G and 5G RF components such as transceivers and amplifiers using a wide range of carrier aggregation schemes, even as the 5G standard is still being defined. With the second-generation VST, engineers can simultaneously generate and measure up to 32 LTE carriers, each with 20 MHz of bandwidth, and use the software to specify a variety of carrier spacing schemes. The release of NI-RFmx also features algorithm improvements for reduced measurement time. Engineers performing modulation quality and spectral measurements for wireless technologies such as UMTS/HSPA+ and LTE/LTE-Advanced Pro can experience EVM measurement time reductions of up to 33 percent by installing the latest version of the software.

NI was also partnering with a team of 5G engineers from the Universities of Bristol and Lund and BT to perform field trials of a massive MIMO system at the BT Labs in Adastral Park, Suffolk. The trials were conducted in a large indoor hall mimicking a stadium environment and outdoors within the Adastral Park campus. The team obtained promising results indicating that this technology could offer spectrum efficiency figures in excess of the 100 bits/s/Hz mark (sum rate capacity of about 2 Gbps). The system used a 128 element Massive MIMO system operating at 3.5 GHz. Initial experiments used 12 streams in a single 20 MHz channel to show the real-time transmission and simultaneous reception of ten unique video streams, plus two other spatial channels demonstrating the full richness of spatial multiplexing supported by the system. The system was also shown to support the simultaneous transmission of 24 user streams operating with 64 QAM on the same radio channel with all modems synchronizing over-the-air.

R&SRohde & Schwarz featured a new demonstrator solution that makes use of the R&S TSME ultracompact drive test scanner and R&S ROMES drive test software to enable over-the-air characterization of 5G network coverage. In addition, data gathered by this test solution on the propagation of signals at 28 GHz can be used to determine the optimum position of receiving Customer Premises Equipment (CPE) antennas and also to validate and improve network planning tools. The company also expanded the internal analysis bandwidth of its R&S FSW high-end signal and spectrum analyzer to 1.2 GHz by introducing the new R&S FSW-B1200 option. The 1200 MHz bandwidth enables research and development for next generation mobile standards, especially in the 28 GHz and 39 GHz bands for 5G, as well as characterization of wideband amplifiers for 5G. A setup consisting of an R&S FSW with the R&S FSW-B1200 option in combination with an R&S SMW200A vector signal generator easily performs in-depth amplifier and predistortion measurements. The R&S SMW200A supports signal generation up to 40 GHz with up to 2 GHz bandwidth.

Significant too, the handheld R&S Cable Rider ZPH cable and antenna analyzer offers a measurement speed of 0.3 milliseconds per data point. Claiming to feature the fastest boot and warm-up time on the market, the analyzer allows users to start taking fast measurements just over a minute after switching it on. There is no requirement for calibration due to temperature and frequency changes and the wizard function guides users through measurements in easy-to-follow steps, while all settings and measurement steps can be preconfigured. Field technicians only need to execute the test sequences as shown on the display.


Analog Devices Inc. announced just prior to the event their Drive360™ 28nm CMOS RADAR technology platform that builds on its established ADAS, MEMS, and RADAR technology portfolio widely used throughout the automotive industry. Analog Devices is the first to offer automotive RADAR technology based on an advanced 28nm CMOS process and the new Drive360 RADAR platform bringing advanced performance to safety and autonomous driving applications. The new platform supports a host of applications including high-end, long-range use cases required for autonomous driving and ADAS, short to midrange automatic emergency braking, blind spot detection, cross traffic alerts and ultra-short range autonomous parking.

Cambridge Consultants said their wireless technology breakthrough is bringing the vision of ‘smart dust’ a step closer to reality. The key is a radical shift in the cost of the most expensive part of the Bluetooth Smart chips at the heart of every connected IoT device, the radio. Cambridge Consultants has used its all-digital radio technology Pizzicato to dramatically cut the silicon cost to just seven cents – less than a tenth of the current cost. The Pizzicato digital radio transmitter consists of an integrated circuit outputting a single stream of bits, and an antenna – with no conventional radio parts or digital-to-analogue converter. Patented algorithms perform the necessary ultra-fast computations in real time, making it possible for standard digital technology to generate high-frequency radio signals directly. It will be interesting to follow this technology and see if it is realized in product (they are looking for partners to take this to market).

GLOBALFOUNDRIES released a 45nm RF SOI (45RFSOI) technology making GF the first to announce an advanced, 300mm RF silicon solution to support next generation mmWave beam forming applications in future 5G base stations and smartphones. The technology is optimized for beam forming front-end modules, with back-end-of-line features including thick copper and dielectrics that enable improved RF performance for LNAs, switches and power amplifiers.  The intrinsic characteristics of SOI combined with RF-centric features enable next-generation RF and mmWave applications, including internet broadband low earth orbit (LEO) satellites and 5G FEMs.  For improved power-handling for devices operating in the GHz frequency range, 45RFSOI incorporates a substrate resistivity of greater than 40 ohm-cm that maximizes the quality factor for passive devices, reduces parasitic capacitances and minimizes disparity in phase and voltage swing. The technology supports operation in mmWave spectrum from 24 to 100 GHz band. Watch our interview with SVP of the RF BU, Bami Bastani about the future of RF device technology. Here is an interview we did with SVP of the RF BU, Bami Bastani.

Infineon Technologies demonstrated how the company leverages the 4G experience and enables the 5G vision for cellular infrastructure and mobile devices by providing leading RF technologies and key building blocks. As proprietary of the broadest portfolio available in the market serving the wide 5G frequencies spectrum, Infineon delivers: High efficiency RF power technologies, namely GaN-on-SiC and GaN-on-Si for integrated architectures above 6 GHz and LDMOS for price competitive and high ruggedness sub 6 GHz systems; packaging innovations enable wideband integrated Doherty amplifiers; flexible RF solutions for mobile and low power infrastructure including SiGe, BiCMOS, GaN mmWave technologies and RF CMOS; and scalable mmWave solutions for frequencies as high as 100 GHz allowing customers a large degree of flexibility in design-phase and helping them to reduce time-to-market.

Integrated Device Technology (IDT) introduced its next-generation 10 Gbps-class mmWave modem for wireless infrastructure carrier deployments in both access and backhaul. The IDT® RWM6050 is the industry's first highly integrated mmWave dual modem (PHY + MAC + ADC/DAC + beamforming) targeting applications such as fixed wireless broadband access, WTTx (wireless to the edge), small cell backhaul, 5G service and other emerging applications. It will initially support operation in the 57 to 71 GHz band and expand support to other microwave and mmWave frequency bands in the future. It can be paired with mmWave RF chipsets to deliver multi-gigabit throughput at several hundred meters distance. It is highly configurable with a radio interface that provides easy integration with RF solutions.

ip.access featured the S60z, a new band flexible RAT-flexible small cell, which provides integrators with a complete ‘cellular engine’ that offers a carrier-proven alternative to Software Defined Radio (SDR) approaches. By combining the company’s S60z hardware platform with its operator-proven UMTS and LTE software stacks, the S60z removes the software integration burden (while still offering low level access), and enables integrators to achieve the RAT and band flexibility they need. The S60z platform has been designed to support all UMTS and LTE bands (both FDD and TDD) in the frequency range from 500 MHz to 3.6 GHz. The S60z also supports ip.access’ SUMO™ multi-operator technology.

MACOM announced the SMT packaged MASW-011098 mmWave switch that can support the 28, 37 and 39 GHz frequency bands. This broadband, reflective, high linearity, SPDT switch was developed for applications in the 26 - 40 GHz frequency range that require up to 7 W of power handling while maintaining low insertion loss and high isolation. The SPDT MMIC utilizes MACOM’s proven AlGaAs PIN diode technology. The MASW-011098 also provides flexible biasing options and is provided in a 5 x 5 mm laminate package.

Menlo Micro announced its Digital-Micro-Switch (DMS) technology platform. This next-generation wafer-level process enables the fabrication of MEMS switches for both power and RF applications. With the DMS process, Menlo has demonstrated an industry leading RonCoff performance below 50 fs, a 10x improvement compared to traditional switches. It is sampling now and will go into production in 12-18 months. With the proliferation of new frequency bands, including much higher frequencies, the performance of the RF switch will become an increasingly important factor in enabling higher data-rates, longer battery life, and much more flexible architectures for 5G applications. While many of these will target high power PIN diode replacement opportunities in military and medical applications, they also may have a future in mobile communications.

NXPNXP Semiconductors™ showcased the new Layerscape Access family of fully programmable, multi-standard SoCs for multi-access technologies including 5G evolution. The family targets scalable solutions in wired and wireless enterprise and carrier networks, and home gateway markets. The first product in the family, the LA1575, solves a multi-standard problem with simultaneous implementation of 802.11ax, 802.11ad, and mmWave standards on a single SoC device. It integrates a fully programmable PHY and MAC with acceleration technologies for 5G, Wi-Fi and wireline protocols that allow updates, changes, and new features to be added via simple software upgrades. As the co-inventor of Near Field Communications and a leader in automotive semiconductor solutions NXP announced that five leading car OEMs will equip their future cars with the company’s NFC devices. Featured was the new NXP NCx3320 automotive-grade NFC front-end IC optimized for secure car access that enables the next level of capabilities for secure convenience.

Qorvo announced that multiple smartphone manufacturers have selected complete reference platforms of the Company’s RF Fusion™ split-band solutions to support the launch of performance-tier smartphones. Qorvo’s RF Fusion™ RF front end solutions integrate filters, high-throw count switches and multimode, multi-band power amplifiers to deliver full coverage of high, mid and low cellular frequency bands. Qorvo’s high-band RF Fusion solutions support the emerging Power Class 2/High Performance User Equipment LTE requirement. Additionally, Qorvo’s RF Fusion solutions comprise the industry’s only complete reference platform to support all leading envelope tracking-capable cellular chipsets.

Qorvo also announced two highly-integrated dual channel switch-LNA modules for base station implementations of massive multiple-input/multiple-output (MIMO). When combined with Qorvo’s GaN-based integrated driver and power amplifier module, the dual channel switch-LNA modules provide a complete, highly integrated solution for wireless infrastructure manufacturers seeking to quickly and cost-effectively implement pre-5G massive MIMO networks. Qorvo's QPB9318 and QPB9319 are highly integrated dual channel switch-LNA modules that support frequency bands below 5 GHz. The dual channel switch-LNA modules pair with Qorvo’s GaN-based QPA2705 to provide a complete massive MIMO RF solution.

RosenbergerRosenberger showcased its latest PIM Site Analyzer, which arrived at MWC 2017 hot out of the development lab. The new PIM Site Analyzer beta is added to the existing alpha model. The beta has reduced weight and size, being less than 15 kg. The facility to change the duplex filter means that when new frequencies are added there is no need to purchase a complete instrument, just the appropriate filter. The instrument is self-calibrating and other features include continuous power operation (not pulsing), the incorporation of two batteries that can be changed independently and a CPRI software option. Easy to use the beta features touch screen operation and it can be remotely controlled on a laptop or smartphone via an app.

Skyworks released eight, 4 W power amplifiers for outdoor and indoor small cell base stations. The eight PAs cover the world’s most popular frequency bands and support FDD and TDD LTE, 4.5G, 5G and the recently launched citizen’s broadband radio service (CBRS). PAE measured at +28 dBm output (8 dB back-off) ranges from a high of 43% for the 700–800 MHz PA to 29% for the 3400–3800 MHz design. The ACLR for all devices is less than −50 dBc at +28 dBm output, measured with a 20 MHz LTE waveform with 8.5 dB peak-to-average ratio (PAR). Amplifier gain varies by band, ranging from 32.5 dB to 38.5 dB. The PAs are matched to 50 Ω at input and output and include active biasing circuitry to compensate PA performance for temperature, voltage and process variations. The amplifiers have an on/off function, operate from a single +5 V supply and are assembled in a 5 x 5 mm package.

Skyworks also announced SkyOne® Ultra 3.0, a highly integrated front-end solution for premium mobile device and smartphone manufacturers worldwide utilizing Skyworks' powerful SkyBlue™ enabling technology for industry-leading efficiency. It is a fully optimized front-end system that incorporates all of the RF and analog functionality including power amplification, duplex filtering and antenna switching into a single device. SkyOne® Ultra 3.0 supports all major carrier aggregation (CA) combinations, meets class 2 high power user equipment (HPUE) requirements and addresses 2.5G/3G/4G handsets for more than 23 bands of LTE.

Sivers IMA provided hands on proof points of the recently launched TRX 1608-LT6275 V-Band transceiver chip by running a live demonstration to show its capabilities. Thanks to advanced Silicon Germanium (SiGe) technology and a very high fmax of 300 GHz, high output power and low noise figure can be achieved. The packaged chip includes all building blocks such as millimeter wave 57 to 71 GHz up and down-converters, power amplifier, low noise amplifier, x6 LO Switch, programmable gain amplifier, voltage controlled oscillator (VCO) and analog baseband (BB Tx and BB Rx). The integrated VCO provides excellent phase noise to support up to 64 QAM modulation. Optionally, an external LO can be injected, enabling user selectable LO and even higher modulation. The SiGe transceiver chip has been integrated into a 7 mm × 7 mm embedded Wafer Level Ball Grid Array (eWLB) packaged device and all process steps on the eWLB package are performed on the wafer.

TowerJazz and University of California, San Diego announced the demonstration of greater than 12 Gbps at 30 meters with a 5G phased-array chipset (greater than 3 Gbps at 300 meters).  The chipset operates at 28 to 31 GHz, a new communications band planned for release by the FCC and being piloted by Verizon for fixed wireless access. The UCSD chip utilizes 16-64-256 QAM schemes to achieve these data rates with dual polarization.  The 64-QAM link reported at 12 Gbps, has an EVM < 5% at 30 meters.  The 16 QAM link at 3 Gbps has an EVM <12% at 300m and over all scan angles, and all with no FEC or equalization. The 4 x 8 (32-element) phased-arrays use SiGe core chips and are assembled on a multi-layer printed-circuit board together with the antennas.  It has 13-20 dBm transmit power per element with high PAE of 20% at 28 GHz and an LNA NF of 2.4 dB at 28 GHz.

u-blox showcased its UBX M8230 CT global navigation satellite system (GNSS) receiver chip, offering a balance of performance and ultra-low power use. The new, Super-Efficient (Super-E) mode cuts the power consumption by two-thirds to 20 mW at one position update every second with hardly any loss in accuracy. The UBX-M8230-CT has a design footprint of < 30 mm2 and its Super-E mode uses concurrent reception of GPS with either GLONASS or BeiDou. It allows batching location data temporarily on the chip, which helps to further reduce the system power consumption by avoiding the need to constantly run the main CPU.

Vayyar Imaging is a 3D-imaging sensor company whose technology makes it possible to see through objects, liquids and materials. They announced the launch of Walabot last year, a consumer version of its 3D imaging system. Walabot’s sensor technology can look through walls to detect structural foundations, track a person’s location and vital signs as they move through a Smart Home, measure the speed of a fast-moving ball, and help drones and cars avoid collisions. Walabot turns a smartphone into a D-imaging system that uses UWB radar technology. They also have WalabotDIY created for the home renovator, construction worker, and DIY enthusiast. WalabotDIY gives users the ability to see through  drywall,  cement  and  other  materials to determine  the  location of pipes,  wires,  and  even rodents nests.  Here is a short video demo -

Xilinx announced a disruptive integration and architectural breakthrough for 5G wireless with the insertion of RF analog technology into its 16nm All Programmable MPSoCs. Xilinx’s new All Programmable RFSoCs eliminate discrete data converters, providing 50-75% power and footprint reduction for 5G massive-MIMO and millimeter wave wireless backhaul applications. With the integration of high performance ADCs and DACs in an All Programmable SoC, radio and wireless backhaul units can now meet previously unattainable power and form factor requirements, while increasing channel density. Additionally, RFSoC devices allow manufactures to streamline design and development cycles to meet 5G deployment timelines. The integrated 16nm-based RF data conversion technology includes: Direct RF sampling for simplified analog design, greater accuracy, smaller form factor, and lower power; 12-bit ADCs at up to 4GSPS, high channel count, with digital down-conversion; and 14-bit DACs at up to 6.4GSPS, high channel count, with digital up conversion. This could represent a game changing way to addressing massive MIMO and future 5G systems as the complexity and power consumption problems are greatly reduced. We will be covering this design in detail in a future issue.

It was certainly the year of 5G and IoT but more importantly, the unprecedented level of integration and innovative architectures for RF technologies has evloved to enable the future of wireless technology.