IBM has developed two chip production processes for wireless applications. One, which IBM has named 6RF, is based on its 0.25µm RF CMOS process. The other, called 5HPE, enhances the use of silicon germanium in RF devices.
According to Matjaz Novak, IBM's marketing manager of wireless communications, the technologies offer customers more options in the development of RF circuits.
"The 6RF technology does not contain SiGe," said Novak. "But it has more aggressive lithography; 0.25µm compared with 0.35µm for the SiGe process. It addresses markets where you don't need the high performance SiGe chip.
The 6RF technology includes a low conductivity substrate, a triple-well NFET and high-quality passive elements.
The 0.35µm SiGe 5HPE process is designed to emphasise the flexibility of design. It integrates a SiGE heterojunction bipolar transistor at 3.3V. The improvements include high breakdown voltage transistors which make possible stacked 3 to 5V circuits.
IBM is a relative latecomer to wireless technology, but is leading developments in SiGe applications. This lead is largely due to the work of IBM engineer Bernie Meyerson, who first spotted the potential of SiGe to high-frequency wireless applications three years ago.
In developing the technology, IBM has concentrated on providing customers with a process that can be adapted to specific aims and applications.
"You can choose any technology level, depending on you requirements and costs," said Novak.