Maintaining a leading position in the shifting RF market is a constant
challenge. But through ongoing innovation in RF process technologies, NXP has
not only maintained its market leadership but continues to develop for the
Radio Frequency (RF) semiconductor solutions are based on a number of
technologies, each has its own advantages and disadvantages. When it comes to
raw power efficiency, GaAs (Gallium Arsenide) and GaN (Gallium Nitride) along
with other exotic solutions are the best, but that performance comes at a high
price. At the other end of the scale, CMOS offers high integration and high
volume production that keeps costs down, but does not deliver the best RF
performance. But it does make RF CMOS the preferred choice for the highly
integrated communication functions in devices such as mobile phones.
SiGe (Silicon Germanium) sits neatly in the middle. SiGe and SiGe:C (Silicon
Germanium Carbon) are slightly behind GaAs in overall performance, although
with each generation NXP continues to close the gap. However, SiGe can be
produced much more cost-effectively than GaAs and in a standard silicon fab.
And once the core RF functionality is available, adding extra functions and
features is almost for free.
In all RF markets, changing requirements need new approaches. Now in its 8th
generation, NXP’s SiGe:C QUBiC technology is making inroads into
cellular base stations with integrated LNAs offering the same performance and
more flexibility in a single chip than previous discrete solutions based on
GaAs. And in mobile phones where integrated CMOS solutions pushed other
technologies out of the RF processing function, SiGe is finding its way back
in via the integrated multi-channel LNAs needed to boost incoming RF signals
back to the levels needed for acceptable system performance.
And as new challenges emerge, the markets will shift again. For example, NXP
is currently working with the STARS consortium on SiGe solutions for radar and
satellite phased arrays. And perhaps in the future, we will see the
repartitioning of RF and media functions in mobile phones or other
connectivity applications. Whatever the challenges, NXP is already preparing.
We have the technology, the RF IP and are already working on the 9th
generation SiGe solutions, so we will be ready to meet them.