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Phasor Solutions & TowerJazz Move Forward With SiGe For Communications

The silicon germanium BiCMOS process was chosen over traditional gallium arsenide solutions due to its ability to operate in the 12GHz to 15GHz band. What's more, the process allows multiple analogue and digital functions to be integrated into a single chip


Foundry firm TowerJazz and Phasor Solutions, have together developed a new phased array technology for communications on the move using SiGe process platforms from TowerJazz.

Phasor is targeting the multi-billion dollar satellite communications and radar market with a unique design that is claimed to provide an order of magnitude improvement over competing solutions.

Phasor recently demonstrated a proprietary technology which allows moving vehicles (aircraft, ships or trucks) to communicate with stationary satellites, or antennas that track moving satellites, with no moving parts. Technically, the system is able to self-align to a desired signal source and track it in real time, which the firm says has never been done before.

Utilising TowerJazz's high performance 155GHz SiGe BiCMOS process (SBC18HX) ,Phasor is manufacturing its innovative transceiver chipset for mobile broadband service on moving platforms such as trains, manned and unmanned airplanes, and military vehicles. 

TowerJazz's SiGe BiCMOS process was chosen over traditional GaAs solutions used in phased array radar due to its ability to operate in the required 12GHz to 15GHz band and for its integration capabilities allowing for multiple analogue and digital functions to be integrated into a single chip. 

As a result, TowerJazz's process provides for a reduction in component count, cost and complexities associated with multiple discrete devices.

Over the past 50 years, conventional phased arrays followed a similar system design. Phasor offers the opportunity to rethink the system design, providing massive efficiencies in cost. Phasor chips include all the radio frequency functions (amplifiers, oscillators) and phase shifting circuits, as well as the logic and data modulation/demodulation required.

This novel approach to phased array technology aims to reduce costs by over ten times and provide added value such as a flat design (less than 1 inch high), conformal to any surface, modular approach, and high reliability as there are no moving parts. One of Phasor's initial targets is wireless internet access on trains, an estimated available market of over 500 million users worldwide, however airborne satcoms and other Comms-On-The-Move (COTM) applications are likely to be larger markets.

The SBC18HX process offered by TowerJazz includes high performance 0.18µm SiGe bipolar and high quality passive elements combined with high density 0.18-micron CMOS, well-suited for high-speed networking and millimetre wave applications. This edge process achieves an Ft of 155GHz and an Fmax of 200GHz, an optimal choice for a variety of high frequency applications. Six layers of metal are standard with deep trench and metal resistor options.

"Phasor is carving the way for the next decades of phased arrays by providing a paradigm shift in satellite communications. It took the industry over 40 years to develop phased arrays which are typically expensive to buy and to operate. But now, with the invaluable support of our partners, and in particular TowerJazz, we have been able to deliver semiconductors which provide an order of magnitude reduction in costs compared to current solutions," says David Garrood, Managing Director, Phasor Solutions. "Phasor has been able to achieve this milestone with the support of the TowerJazz team and relying on the stability and performance of its SBC18HX process." 

"We are pleased to continue working with Phasor to enable this novel product. Our advanced SiGe BiCMOS technology provides higher integration at lower cost than GaAs solutions, allowing cost-effective satellite communications on the move to be realized," adds Marco Racanelli, Senior Vice President and General Manager for the RF & High Performance Analogue and Aerospace & Defence Business Groups at TowerJazz. 

"Together, we have begun volume manufacturing to enable a high gain antenna, which consists of 20,000 chips. In addition, we continue to invest in advanced SiGe and recently announced our latest process, SBC18H3, which supports devices with speeds of 270GHz and offers a path for further performance, power, and noise improvement in next-generation products."

Phasor Solutions will be launching the new phased array product at the Farnborough International Airshow in England taking place between July 9th and 13th 2012 in Hall 3 in Booth D22.
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