RFaxis to Unveil Family of RF Front-Ends for IEEE 802.11ac in Nanometer-Scale CMOS Technology

Company to Deliver the Industry's Highest-Performance Single-Chip/Single-Die RFeIC at Process Nodes Compatible with State-of-the-Art WLAN SoCs

IRVINE, Calif. — (BUSINESS WIRE) — August 4, 2014RFaxis, Inc., a leading fabless semiconductor company focused on developing innovative, next-generation RF solutions for the wireless connectivity and cellular mobility markets, today announced that it will be unveiling a family of Nano RF products code named "Nucleus”.

The initial device, Nucleus45, is a fully integrated 5GHz 802.11ac RF Front-end IC (RFeIC) in 40nm CMOS process, and is slated for sampling to strategic customers in Q4, 2014. A dual-band / dual-mode RFeIC in the same 40nm node, Nucleus4, will be available in Q1, 2015. The company will also introduce its next-generation Nucleus2 series products, providing a seamless migration from 40nm to 28nm process node.

Driven by key applications such as smartphones, PCs/tablets, high-definition video streaming, and Internet of Things (IoTs), Wi-Fi continues to enjoy huge market success, maintaining its explosive growth momentum. According to Strategy Analytics, over 2 billion Wi-Fi chips were shipped in 2013, with projected annual shipment to exceed 3 billion units by 2017.

To further improve wireless speed and real-life data throughput, the Wi-Fi industry is rapidly adopting the latest IEEE standard, 802.11ac, that supports advanced modulation schemes such as 256QAM, up to 8x8 MIMO (Multiple-In Multiple-Out) and MU-MIMO (Multi-User MIMO), in order to deliver unprecedented high data speed approaching 10 Gbps. To further reduce size, enhance processor capability, and increase level of integration, Wi-Fi SoC vendors have been constantly moving toward smaller CMOS process nodes for their next-generation products.

As CMOS technology continues its migration path toward deeper submicron nodes, such as 40nm, 32nm and 28nm, the reduction in supply voltage, along with passive losses associated with substrate leakage, pose great design challenges for RF PAs (Radio Frequency Power Amplifiers) and front-ends with high power capability, good linearity and competitive efficiency. On the other hand, these nanometer-scale CMOS processes also provide a multitude of new features and advantages, such as unprecedented signal processing power that can provide huge benefits to RF/analog designs if utilized properly.

For instance, DPD (digital pre-distortion) has been routinely used on mainstream Wi-Fi SoCs today to help deliver reasonable on-chip output power with good linearity for OFDM modulation, while ET (envelope tracking) is rapidly emerging as a promising enabling technology for CMOS PAs to replace incumbent GaAs-based PAs for 3G/4G-LTE handset applications.

While these powerful and sophisticated digital techniques can be applied to control and enhance any type of RF front-end solution, the best synergy occurs when both the SoC (baseband/transceiver) and RF components are designed and fabricated in the same CMOS process. That is exactly the goal of RFaxis’ Nucleus product family. With patented architecture, proprietary advanced technology, and in-house design know-how, RFaxis has overcome multiple technical hurdles and mastered the art of achieving high and linear RF power with low-voltage CMOS devices.

A prime example is RFaxis’ RFX240, a 2.4GHz 11b/g/n/ac PA based on standard 0.18um CMOS process, that delivers 26dBm (400mW) linear power with 3% EVM for 64QAM OFMD at 5V supply voltage, with excellent power added efficiency (PAE) surpassing that of competitor designs using GaAs or SiGe processes. RFaxis' extensive portfolio of 2.4/5GHz RFeICs complete with PA, LNA and antenna switches have been in high-volume production, providing state-of-the-art performance at unprecedented prices, as a result of low-cost CMOS process technology.

The RFaxis Nucleus Family

With the Nucleus product family, RFaxis will further push the envelope by integrating high-performance RF in nanometer process nodes. Nucleus45 is designed to deliver 18dBm output power to meet the most stringent linearity requirement for 256QAM modulation for 11ac – without the use of any DPD techniques. The integrated LNA provides an extremely low noise figure of 2.5dB at system level, with all losses associated with impedance matching and antenna switch included. The RF performance matches that with state-of-the-art designs from much more expensive semiconductor processes such as GaAs, SiGe, or SOI.

The Nucleus solution provides the wireless industry a path forward to synchronize robust RF, digital and mixed-signal designs in deeper micron process nodes, enabling customers to achieve their RF performance targets with accelerated design cycle, greatly reduced development risk, shortened time-to-market, while avoiding massive new R&D investment.

"RF Front-ends play a very critical role in maximizing the number of bars and guaranteeing the highest data rates for wireless communication devices such as smartphones and tablets,” said Mike Neshat, chairman and CEO of RFaxis. “Due to unique challenges in RF design, the wireless industry has been relying on expensive Gallium Arsenide (GaAs) or Silicon Germanium (SiGe) technologies for their RF front-end requirements, until now. RFaxis is the first and only company in the world that is shipping complete RF front-end solutions in pure CMOS process, with uncompromised performance and utterly disruptive pricing.”

“With the introduction of Nucleus, RFaxis is on solid track to fulfill its mission by offering the wireless industry an RF front-end solution that is native to CMOS and matches seamlessly with mainstream SoCs for Wi-Fi, ZigBee, Bluetooth, or Internet of Things," Neshat said.

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