Comprehensive Survey of Commercial mmWave Phased Array Companies
Focused on SATCOM and 5G applications
Microwave Journal has been following the developments in commercial phased array technology for automotive, SATCOM and 5G markets for many years publishing several articles on companies that have developed new architectures and approaches. Over the last couple of years, many new startups have emerged, and other traditional microwave companies have released new products to the point that there are now many choices in the marketplace. I have tried to do a comprehensive survey of the market here doing a short summary of the companies we see in the marketplace today. I did not include MIMO mmWave systems since they are typically used for wireless backhaul or automotive radar systems so not phased arrays that steer beams. I am sure I missed a couple so feel free to comment below.
ALCAN’s antenna technology combines state of the art LCD technology with microwave LCs and antenna design. Their phased array consists of a feed network, an LC phase shifter stack and a radiator stack. Using this approach, all parts can be designed independently and in a modular fashion. The LC phase shifter stack is fabricated with standard LCD processes. This allows for large scale fabrication as well as virtually any aperture size – including segments or antenna groups providing a cost advantage. The LC phase shifter stack consists of two glass sheets separated by spacers where the LC material is filled in between. ALCAN has developed patented phase shifter topologies having an LC layer thickness of a few microns enabling lower loss and more compact size. Compared to other LCD phased array approaches, they have a wider bandwidth and less loss. In fact, they are reporting power consumption levels at less than half of other phased array approaches using either waveguide or the commonly used patch antenna technology with highly integrated Si devices. We plan to cover them in-depth in an issue in the second quarter this year.
Analog Devices introduced a new solution for mmWave 5G in May 2019 with a high available level of integration to reduce design requirements and complexity in the next generation of cellular network infrastructure. The solution combines ADI’s advanced beamformer IC, up/down frequency conversion, and additional mixed signal circuitry. This optimized “Beams to Bits” signal chain that ADI markets as one of the unique capabilities in the market. The mmWave 5G chipset includes the 16-channel ADMV4821 dual/single polarization beamformer IC, 16-channel ADMV4801 single-polarization beamformer IC and the ADMV1017 mmWave UDC. The 24- to 30-GHz beamforming plus up/down conversion solution forms a 3GPP 5G NR compliant mmWave front-end to address the n261, n257 and n258 bands. The high channel density, coupled with the ability to support both single- and dual-polarization deployments, greatly increases system flexibility and reconfigurability for multiple 5G use cases with best-in-class EIRP according to the company.
Anokiwave was one of the early entrants into mmWave chip sets for commercial phased arrays for SATCOM and 5G applications. They are a fabless semiconductor company providing highly integrated silicon core IC solutions and silicon front ends. on their third-generation chips so have a mature platform covering all of the mmWave frequency bands for these applications. Phased arrays designed with their chips typically have advanced features such as accurate operation of temperature without calibration using their ZERO-CAL technology, ability turn on and off sectors of the arrays when not needed saving energy using their KINETIC-GREEN functionality.
Their 5G portfolio supports everything from macro-cells to small cells to CPE in the mmWave frequencies such as the existing 28 and 39 GHz bands; the 24/26 GHz band, and the 37/39 GHz bands scheduled soon. The Gen-2 Ku and K/Ka-Band SATCOM Beamformer IC family offers options for both of the key SATCOM bands for ground, maritime, and airborne equipment, while ensuring high performance and low cost. The new IC family enables active antenna based phased array SATCOM terminals that can auto-align and auto-position and support SATCOM-on-the-move using LEO/MEO/GEO satellites. Anokiwave is working with Ball Aerospace who has manufactures the complete phased array units. Watch our video interview discussing their latest developments.
Antenna Company has introduced the industry’s first 5G dielectric resonator phased antenna array designed specifically for 5G mm-wave applications. The 64-antenna DRA combines patented Antenna Company’s SuperShape™ and DRA technology to achieve wide-band operation over the 24-30 GHz frequency bands. The mm-wave DRA array demonstrates reduced scanning losses, lower sidelobe levels and greater maximum scan angle compared to a conventional patch array using the same configuration and inter-element separation. The design achieves over 40 dBm of peak EIRP, which is ideal for use in customer-premise-equipment (CPE) products. The design is scalable to support 37-40 GHz frequency bands for global band support across the mm-wave spectrum. We will cover their technology in our Feb 2020 issue.
Gapwaves waveguides are a unique packaging technology for millimeter wave and terahertz circuits and components enable planar solutions with extremely low losses. The technology is based on an Artificial Magnetic Conductor that enables contactless propagation of electromagnetic waves, significantly reducing transmission losses. Antennas based on Gapwaves waveguide technology have over 10 times lower losses than microstrip lines, over 3 times lower losses than SIW, and approximately the same losses as rectangular waveguides. The technology enables high performance planar antennas, filters, diplexers, and other active components and with multiple ports are suitable for beamforming applications. They have teamed up with semiconductor manufacturers to produce mmWave phased arrays with 65 dBm of EIRP at 28 GHz and seem to be targeting 5G and automotive applications for the most part. A comprehensive discussion of the technology and demonstrated results was published in the February 2019 issue of Microwave Journal.
IDT (now part of Renesas) acquired the highly integrated phased array technology that Prof. Gabriel Rebeiz developed at UCSD. The quad core-chip architecture enables low power consumption solutions that combine low noise, high output power and high-resolution amplitude and phase control for the front-end functions of the array. IDT also released an integrated modem for millimeter wave systems in February 2017 and in August, IDT acquired SpectraBeam, who is developing millimeter wave beamforming products for 5G and satellite communications. In late 2019, they IDT introduced its new RapidWave mm-Wave modem for CPE targeted for 5G fixed wireless networks. The RWM6051 gives wireless broadband service providers an ultra-wideband spectrum of 14 GHz V-band from 57 to 71 GHz to simplify and accelerate network deployments.
To address the growing millimeter wave market for automotive radar and wireless infrastructure, Infineon has extended the performance of its internal SiGe BiCMOS process, increasing the fmax to 400 GHz, which improves the temperature stability of devices fabricated with the process. Well known for its 77 GHz automotive radar MMICs, Infineon is also developing MMICs for the 24 GHz ISM, 24/28 5G and 60 GHz unlicensed bands. Products include an integrated front-end with antenna for the 60 GHz band and a transceiver that covers 24 to 30 GHz with 18 dBm transmit power at 1 dB compression.
JMA Wireless recently acquired PHAZR which manufactures mmWave beamforming arrays for the 5G bands specializing in virtual RAN applications. Their products integrate 5G vRAN functionality in the 5G antenna system, delivering the only intelligent edge system to enable low latency 5G services connected directly to emerging 5G Core networks. PHAZR’s RAN products, use the patented Quadplexâ technology, which pairs millimeter wave spectrum for downlink with sub-6GHz spectrum for the uplink to uniquely enable high-performance, cost-effective, and power-efficient 5G systems.
Kymeta’s arrays use metamaterials to form holographic beams that can link to satellites and maintain the link while the antenna is in motion. Kymeta’s mTenna™ technology is manufactured using a completely different process and components than both traditional antennas and phased array antennas. The “metamaterial” in mTenna technology is a metasurface in a glass structure. Their glass-on-glass structure is manufactured on the same production lines as LCD flat screen televisions, making it suited for low-cost, high volume manufacturing (like ALCAN). They use the thin film transistor liquid crystal as a tunable dielectric. Instead of reflecting microwaves like a traditional dish antenna or creating thousands of separate signals like a phased array, Kymeta uses a thin structure with tunable metamaterial elements to create a holographic beam that can transmit and receive satellite signals. The antenna does not require active phase shifters or amplifiers. They use software to steer the antenna and are focused on Satellite applications only as their sister company Pivotal Commware uses the holographic beamforming technique for communications applications. Kymeta has been doing this for many years in the satellite market and is now offering complete systems solutions to the industry.
Metawave Corporation is a provider of advanced radar for autonomous driving and wireless communications for 5G deployments and successfully demonstrated a first-of-its-kind phase controller to power its 77 GHz automotive radar platform, WARLORD™, for automotive and broad transportation applications. The phase controllers will also be deployed with Metawave’s novel antenna arrays to power its SABER™ platform for 5G and fixed wireless unlicensed deployments. Metawave’s SPEKTRA™ can detect and classify vehicles beyond 350 meters and pedestrians beyond 200 meters. All of Metawave’s platforms are integrated with AWARE™, Metawave’s proprietary AI software for object detection and classification as well as potential network planning and data load management for wireless deployments. Metawave ECHO™ passive relays are beautifully designed “smart mirrors” that bend and direct signals in areas of lower coverage. NTT DOCOMO successfully conducted a 5G trial using 28 GHz trial site and reflectors utilizing Metawave's 5G platform in Nov 2018.
Movandi is a privately held company with a mission to revolutionize 5G Everywhere. Their BeamXR product solves the issue of 5G coverage limitations caused by the propagation characteristics of radio signals at 5G millimeter wave frequency bands and increases 5G coverage, while reducing infrastructure costs, simplifies deployment and increases network capacity, enabling new high-reliability, low-latency services. Movandi announced the BeamX front-end modules for 28 and 39 GHz base stations, small cells and mobile broadband access points. The BeamX module integrates the power amplifier, low noise amplifier, up- and down-converters and frequency synthesizer/phase-locked loop for the designated band. They introduced the BeamXR, a system-level repeater developed to solve non-line-of-sight, high path loss and self-installation challenges early last year. The BeamXR will be used between the base station and user equipment to improve coverage by spreading the beam, bending it around buildings or obstructions and improving penetration through low-emissivity glass. The BeamXR is a standalone solution with donor and relay antenna arrays, synchronization and signal processing.
Movandi and NXP announced a joint partnership to collaborate on millimeter wave solutions for 5G networks, combining Movandi’s RF module and system expertise with NXP’s digital networking and signal processing capabilities. Movandi and KT Corporation have jointly demonstrated an O-RAN 5G millimeter wave radio unit. Multi-party collaboration with Xilinx and SOLiD (the leading O-RAN solution provider) allowed KT to develop a 5G mmWave radio unit that uses Movandi’s BeamX technology, including RF front-end, antennas and software algorithms. Movandi’s high performance 5G mmWave solutions provide the flexibility, scalability and performance to meet the needs of the O-RAN Alliance communities and requirements across a complete range of installations and applications.
Murata recently announced that it is working to develop an RF module solution for Terragraph, a gigabit wireless technology developed by Facebook that is designed to meet the growing demand for reliable, high-speed internet access in urban and suburban environments. Terragraph is enabled in part by placing millimeter-wave RF modules at 200 to 250 meter intervals between base stations. With Terragraph, construction takes less time to deploy at a lower cost when compared to a conventional network. This is accomplished by attaching set boxes that include millimeter-wave RF modules to objects such as streetlights, that are already ubiquitous in cities. Murata’s millimeter-wave RF modules use an independently developed LTCC that realizes stable communications quality in the millimeter-wave band and features both high heat and moisture resistance. This is more of a backhaul application but included it here.
NXP reorganized and combined the RF power segment NXP acquired from Freescale with NXP’s small-signal RFIC business to create a single business unit and an integrated strategy. That strategy is targeting 5G millimeter wave fixed wireless access, using NXP’s internal SiGe process, and sub-6 GHz base station power, using either the company’s mature LDMOS process or a proprietary GaN process jointly fabbed by NXP and an external foundry. For the 5G millimeter wave bands, NXP believes the performance of its SiGe process — with +18 to +19 dBm peak output power — enables the “sweet spot” of EIRP and array size, i.e., between a larger array required by competing silicon ICs and a smaller but more expensive array using GaN front-end modules. NXP has developed a four-channel RFIC for 28 GHz, integrating the PA, LNA, phase shifter and switch, and is designing companion RFICs for the 24 and 39 GHz bands. For the 5 W average power amplifiers used in sub-6 GHz massive MIMO base stations, NXP gives its LDMOS technology the edge to 4 GHz. Above 4 GHz, GaN wins.
Pabellon, a Silicon Valley-based start-up, has developed Surface Plane Magnetics technology to open the untapped and unregulated RF spectrum as reported in an article in May 2019 issue of IEEE Consumer Electronics Magazine. It allows the use RF spectrum in radio silence, where there is no interference with airwaves. You have to be an IEEE member to view the material so there is limited information available on this technology that we could find.
Pivotal Commware’s technology is based on their Holographic Beam Forming® technology. The concept comprises an antenna array printed on a PCB with a single biased control component, such as a varactor diode, at each element. The incoming RF signal is steered by biasing the control components at each element, achieving ±70 degree steering in azimuth and ±35 degrees in elevation. The entire assembly is inexpensive, thin and light weight, with very low power consumption. An initial application of the Holographic Beam Forming technology is the Echo 5G® repeater, designed to overcome millimeter wave signal loss through glass windows, either from reflection or attenuation. The same repeater capability is also being applied to help service providers fill in dead zones obstructed or not in the line of sight between millimeter wave access points. Our Feb 2020 issue will feature an in-depth piece on their technology.
Qorvo is aggressively pursuing 5G infrastructure opportunities at both the sub-6 GHz and millimeter wave bands, developing all-GaN front-end modules for 28 and 39 GHz. The company said its 28 GHz products were used by Samsung in the 5G MIMO demo at the 2018 Winter Olympics. For sub-6 GHz, Qorvo released three new products: a dual-channel switch LNA module, ultra-low noise figure LNA and Doherty power amplifier. To underscore its strong position supporting 5G infrastructure, Qorvo touted shipping more than 100 million wireless infrastructure components for 5G since January of 2018 — an impressive volume.
Qualcomm Technologies announced an antenna module in Sept 2019 designed for the customer premise equipment (CPE) used in fixed wireless access (FWA) services, extending its portfolio of mmWave modules for 5G. The QTM527 mmWave antenna module provides all the RF signal processing from the output of the modem to the antenna. Qualcomm said the QTM527 is sampling to customers, and production will support CPE shipments during the first half of 2020. The output power of the CPE module meets the specification for class 1 equipment: more than 40 dBm EIRP with 64 dual polarization antenna elements. Qualcomm’s module supports up to 64 elements and 800 MHz bandwidth in all the mmWave bands currently designated for 5G service: 24.25 to 27.5, 26.5 to 29.5, 27.5 to 28.35 and 37 to 40 GHz. Paired with its Snapdragon X55 5G modem, the system meets the NR standard and provides beam forming, beam steering and beam tracking, with up to 2 x 2 MIMO and dual-layer polarization for both downlink and uplink.
SatixFy has developed the industry’s first TTD digital beamformer in a form that is efficient in power and cost. The Prime ASIC has a modular and flexible architecture supporting real-time reconfiguration, online calibration and the scalability to build large antennas. Prime digitizes the signal at each antenna element with high speed ADC and DAC, processing more than 2 Tbps data rates. Prime connects to RFFEs containing the RF transceivers via a high bandwidth I/Q interface. Within each DBF, the ADCs and DACs are connected to high-resolution digital phase shifters and digital delay circuits which implement TTD to avoid beam squints, enabling wideband signal transmission and reception. The DBF chips are connected to each other via a high-speed digital SERDES, which enables a highly integrated, controllable and scalable antenna system. A companion to the Prime, Satixfy’s first-generation RFFE is a Ku-Band RFIC which links the Prime’s I/Q signals with the Ku-Band antenna elements. Called Beat, the RFFE integrates the transmit driver and power amplifier, transmit up-converter, receive low noise amplifier, receive down-converter and antenna polarization control, either linear or circular. A single Beat supports four Ku-Band antenna elements operating in half-duplex mode. SatixFy introduced the first fully digital 256-element phase array for Ku-Band SATCOM. The antenna array can serve both as a standalone IoT terminal or a building block for a larger array. The antenna is a single board design with a shared aperture antenna (Rx and Tx), operating from 11 to 12 GHz for Rx and 13.75 to 14.5 GHz for Tx. The 256-element ESMA comprises eight Primes daisy-chained and 64 Ku-Band Beats. The antenna can simultaneously point, track and manage multiple beams with multiple polarizations. Their technical article on our site was the most viewed article of 2019.
Sivers IMA and Blu Wireless have demonstrated data transmit speeds of over 1 Gbps over a distance exceeding 700 meters using their combined unlicensed 5G Technology in the license free 60 GHz band. The combined solution of the Sivers IMA TRX BF01 Transceiver RF IC and the HYDRA baseband platform from Blu Wireless provide the first unlicensed 5G solution to offer full coverage of the 57 – 71 GHz band. This allows network operators and other service providers to fully exploit the license-free band. Sivers offers a 5G NR compliant 16x16 beam forming transceiver RFIC that support the need for the increased demand of data traffic. The RFIC has good EVM performance and can be used with 64 QAM modulation with speeds up to 4 Gbps. Sivers and Ampleon are jointly developing 5G basestation products and Ampleon will be funding parts of the Sivers IMA development by approximately MSEK 3.5. Ampleon will be the main sales channel to all tier 1 OEMs for the product resulting from the project. Ampleon is one of the leading global suppliers of sub 6 GHz RF power solutions for 4G and 5G cellular base stations and Sivers will help them with mmWave technology for their next generation 5G base stations. Sivers is also working with NXP partnering with their flexible Layerscape® programmable baseband platform and using Sivers IMA’s 5G-NR chip and phased-array antenna to realize products. Both parties will contribute to secure a high-level of integration between NXP baseband and the Sivers IMA 28 GHz and 60 GHz RFICs and phased-array antennas and will support O-RAN compliant options.
TMYTEK is a group of Taiwanese mmWave engineers that have designed a unique mmWave phased array box that you can use to prototype 5G systems. You can easily attach you own phased array antennas to the front end to test new designs and they have demonstrated how the phased array could be used to test a DUT by electronically scanning to great improve speed. Here is a video to better understand their product.
From Space News, Caleb Henry reported that OneWeb founder Greg Wyler is involved in a self-funded side project, Wafer LLC, has developed a flat, low-power phased-array antenna that could be mass produced for $15. Wyler said tests of prototypes showed 50 Mbps capacity per antenna "tile" and said multiple tiles could be combined. The prototype uses the Ku-Band that OneWeb's first satellites will use, but Wyler said they can be redesigned for different frequencies and orbit altitudes at little change in cost. They are based in Danvers, MA but seem to be keeping things pretty quiet with not much more information available that we could find.