Tower Semiconductor recently announced that its SiGe BiCMOS platform was selected for the development and production of Renesas Electronics’ market-leading beamforming 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 and G/T requirements,” said Naveen Yanduru, vice president 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 Tower Semiconductor’s high-performance SiGe BiCMOS technology, Renesas is able to achieve unprecedented levels of integration. For example, the Renesas 8-ch transmit IC has a footprint of only two square millimeters per transmit channel and consumes less than 100 mW, while delivering 10 dBm 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 Semiconductor process offerings to identify the optimal compromise between cost and performance. 

“We are pleased to be working with a leader such as Renesas that is leveraging the value of our SiGe Terabit platform to deliver breakthrough phased array product performance for Satcom applications,” said Marco Racanelli, Tower Semiconductor Sr. Vice President and General Manager of Analog IC Business Unit. “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.”

By some estimates, the Satcom market is projected to grow to $50 billion by 2027 at a CAGR of 10 percent. In the same time frame, the number of satellites is projected to triple from approximately 8,000 to 24,000, primarily driven 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 beamforming ICs.