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Mobiles: Qualcomm`s CMOS could kick IQE`s GaAs

The new WTR1625L and RF silicon front end chips harness radio frequency band proliferation, enabling OEMs to develop thinner, more power-efficient devices with global 4G LTE mobility
Qualcomm Incorporated's wholly-owned subsidiary, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc., has introduced the Qualcomm silicon CMOS nbased RF360 Front End Solution.

This is a comprehensive, system-level solution that addresses cellular radio frequency band fragmentation and enables for the first time a single, global 4G LTE design for mobile devices.

Band fragmentation is the biggest obstacle to designing today’s global LTE devices, with 40 cellular radio bands worldwide. The Qualcomm RF front end solution comprises a family of chips designed to mitigate this problem while improving RF performance and helping OEMs more easily develop multiband, multimode mobile devices supporting all seven cellular modes, including LTE-FDD, LTE-TDD, WCDMA, EV-DO, CDMA 1x, TD-SCDMA and GSM/EDGE.

Qualcomm says its RF front end solution includes the industry’s first envelope power tracker for 3G/4G LTE mobile devices, a dynamic antenna matching tuner, an integrated power amplifier-antenna switch, and an innovative 3D-RF packaging solution incorporating key front end components.

Last week, UK based firm Nujira announced its development of silicon based CMOS power amplifiers which also use envelope tracking. The firm says these devices boost the linearity, efficiency and output power for CMOS PAs beyond the performance of gallium arsenide power amplifiers (PAs).

The announcement from Qualcomm may well have impacted the share price of compound semiconductor wafer manufacturer IQE. It fell over 13 percent in a day (as shown below). IQE manufactures gallium arsenide wafers used to make chips in next generation mobiles.



The Qualcomm RF360 solution is designed to work seamlessly, reduce power consumption and improve radio performance while reducing the RF front end footprint inside of a smartphone by up to 50 percent compared to the current generation of devices.

What's more, the solution reduces design complexity and development costs, allowing OEM customers to develop new multiband, multimode LTE products faster and more efficiently. By combining the new RF front end chipsets with Qualcomm Snapdragon all-in-one mobile processors and Gobi LTE modems, Qualcomm Technologies can supply OEMs with a comprehensive, optimised, system-level LTE solution that is truly global.

As mobile broadband technologies evolve, OEMs need to support 2G, 3G, 4G LTE and LTE Advanced technologies in the same device in order to provide the best possible data and voice experience to consumers no matter where they are.

“The wide range of radio frequencies used to implement 2G, 3G and 4G LTE networks globally presents an ongoing challenge for mobile device designers. Where 2G and 3G technologies each have been implemented on four to five different RF bands globally, the inclusion of LTE brings the total number of cellular bands to approximately 40,” says Alex Katouzian, senior vice president of product management, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc.

“Our new RF devices are tightly integrated and will allow us the flexibility and scalability to supply OEMs of all types, from those requiring only a region-specific LTE solution, to those needing LTE global roaming support.”

The Qualcomm RF360 front end solution also represents a significant technological advancement in overall radio performance and design, and the company says it comprises the following components:

    Dynamic Antenna Matching Tuner (QFE15xx) – The world’s first modem-assisted and configurable antenna-matching technology extends antenna range to operate over 2G/3G/4G LTE frequency bands, from 700-2700 MHz. This, in conjunction with modem control and sensor input, dynamically improves the antenna’s performance and connection reliability in the presence of physical signal impediments, like the user’s hand.

    Envelope Power Tracker (QFE11xx) – The industry’s first modem-assisted envelope tracking technology designed for 3G/4G LTE mobile devices, this chip is designed to reduce overall thermal footprint and RF power consumption by up to 30 percent, depending on the mode of operation. By reducing power and heat dissipation, it enables OEMs to design thinner smartphones with longer battery life.

    Integrated Power Amplifier / Antenna Switch (QFE23xx) – The industry’s first chip featuring an integrated CMOS power amplifier (PA) and antenna switch with multiband support across 2G, 3G and 4G LTE cellular modes. This innovative solution provides unprecedented functionality in a single component, with smaller PCB area, simplified routing and one of the smallest PA/antenna switch footprints in the industry.

    RF POP (QFE27xx) – The industry’s first 3D RF packaging solution, integrates the QFE23xx multimode, multiband power amplifier and antenna switch, with all the associated SAW filters and duplexers in a single package. Designed to be easily interchangeable, the QFE27xx allows OEMs to change the substrate configuration to support global and/or region-specific frequency band combinations. The QFE27xx RF POP enables a highly integrated multiband, multimode, single-package RF front end solution that is truly global.

OEM products featuring the complete Qualcomm RF360 Solution are anticipated to be launched in the second half of 2013.

Qualcomm also announced a new RF transceiver chip, the WTR1625L.

The firm claims this chip is the first in the industry to support carrier aggregation with a significant expansion in the number of active RF bands. The WTR1625L can accommodate all cellular modes and 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE frequency bands and band combinations that are either deployed or in commercial planning globally.

Whsat's more, it has an integrated, high-performance GPS core that also supports GLONASS and Beidou systems. The WTR1625L is tightly integrated in a wafer scale package and optimised for efficiency, offering 20 percent power savings compared to previous generations. The new transceiver, along with the Qualcomm RF360 front end chips, is integral to Qualcomm Technologies Inc.’s single-SKU World Mode LTE solution for mobile devices that are expected to launch in 2013.

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