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Tech platform targets RF front end of mobile devices

21 Jun 2013

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STMicroelectronics has announced what it describes as an advanced component process technology geared to increase performance and reduce the size of the RF front-end of mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. According to the company, the process is an evolution of the H9SOI Silicon-on-Insulator process introduced by ST in 2008 and subsequently used by customers to produce RF switches for mobile phones and WiFi applications.

In wireless devices, the RF front-end circuit is typically built using individual amplifiers, switches and tuners. As new high-speed standards such as 4G mobile and WiFi (IEEE 802.11ac) use multiple frequency bands to increase data throughput, the latest equipment requires additional front-end circuitry. While current 3G phones use up to five frequency bands, the 3GPP standards for next-generation 4G LTE support up to 40 bands. Conventional separate components dramatically increase overall size whereas ST's manufacturing process, known as H9SOI_FEM, allows production of complete integrated front-end modules.

From a commercial point of view, smartphones featuring high-speed multi-band wireless are driving booming demand for RF front-end components, particularly as integrated modules. The number of RF devices in a smartphone is roughly three times the number in an entry-level 2G/3G phone, while smartphone shipments are currently more than one billion units annually and growing at around 30 per cent according to analysis by Prismark. Additionally OEMs require suppliers to provide smaller, thinner components with higher power efficiency.

ST is now ready to start working with customers on new designs using H9SOI_FEM. Volume ramp-up is expected by the end of this year.

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