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WiMAX is the focus for Cree's GaN HEMTs

The Durham, NC, chip manufacturer begins sampling a GaN HEMT for use in broadband wireless base stations.

Cree has launched a new GaN HEMT product that it hopes will find uptake in the emerging market for the broadband wireless access technology called WiMAX.

The Durham, NC, chip manufacturer says that its 15 W power transistor, which has been optimized for the 3.3 GHz-3.9 GHz frequency band, is aimed primarily at applications in base stations. However, Jim Milligan - Cree's manager for wide-bandgap RF products "“ says that the company has also received some interest for its use in customer premises equipment (CPE), which could represent a much bigger market.

He adds that the HEMT is merely the first in a series of packaged GaN-based products that Cree is planning to launch this year.

Unlike the SiC-based MESFET launched for similar applications a year ago, this latest device is designed for 28 V operation. "The SiC parts are available for customers who prefer and/or need higher operating voltages such as 48 V," Milligan explained.

While GaN-based transistors have long been regarded as technologically superior to their GaAs or silicon LDMOS equivalents at these frequencies, particularly in terms of power output and efficiency, their relatively high price has always been a stumbling block.

But Cree says the GaN devices that it is now starting to roll out will be priced competitively with alternative technologies for WiMAX applications.

The GaN HEMTs are manufactured on semi-insulating SiC substrates at Cree's new fabrication facility, located just a few miles from its Durham, NC, headquarters.

Although there have been difficulties in standardizing the various protocols associated with WiMAX technology, some of the semiconductor industry's biggest players have targeted it as a key growth area.

None more so than Intel, the world's leading silicon chip manufacturer. Its venture capital wing has been busy making investments in WiMAX, and as recently as last week it signed two more deals "“ one in Egypt and another in The Netherlands.

Intel's deal with Netherlands-based Enertel will see the two companies set up a joint venture called Worldmax, to which Enertel will contribute its existing 3.5 GHz spectrum license that spans the country.

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