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First-of-a-Kind Tunable Balance Network

Imec and VUB present alternative to fixed frequency surface-acoustic wave filters for LTE Bands from 0.7-1GHz

Nanoelectronics research centre Imec and Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) have developed a frequency division duplex (FDD) balance network, made using 0.18µm partially depleted RF SOI CMOS, that is capable of dual-frequency impedance tuning for all LTE bands in the 0.7-to-1GHz range.

The work was presented at this month's IEEE International Solid-State Circuits Conference (ISSCC2016).

Imec and VUB say their dual-frequency balance network is the first FDD balance network that allows balancing the on-chip tunable impedance profile with the impedance profile of an antenna at two frequencies, simultaneously.

When integrated into an electrical-balance duplexer (EBD), it enables FDD duplexing with antennas in real-world environments, paving the way to high-performance, low-power, low-cost solutions for mobile communication.

An electrical balance duplexer is a tunable RF front-end concept that seeks to address several key challenges of 4G and 5G mobile systems. It balances an on-chip tunable impedance, the so-called balance network, with the antenna impedance, to provide transmit-to-receive (TX-to-RX) isolation and avoid unwanted frequency components in the received signal.

According to the developers it is a promising alternative to the fixed frequency surface-acoustic wave (SAW) filters implemented in today's mobile phones as more and more SAW duplexers would be needed to support the ever growing amount of bands adopted by operators, increasing size and cost of these devices.

Unlike filter-based front-ends, electrical-balance duplexers provide signal cancellation, which could help enable in-band full-duplex for double capacity and increased network density, among other benefits, for next-generation standards.

The balance network can generate, for any LTE band within 0.7-1GHz, a simultaneous transmit-frequency impedance and receive-frequency impedance to provide high TX-to-RX isolation at both frequencies. The active area of the balance network, which consists of 19 switched capacitors and 10 inductors, is 8.28mm2.

The balance network is tuned by an in-house developed custom algorithm, which can optimise the tuning codes of all 19 capacitor banks using only the isolation at the TX and RX frequencies as input.

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