PORTLAND, Ore. — The dream of a MEMS system-on-a-chip RF front-end for wireless
mobile handsets is being realized by the collaborative efforts of startup WiSpry
and IBM Microelectronics.
Fabless MEMS chip company WiSpry Inc. (Irvine, Calif.) has inked a joint
development deal with IBM Microelectronics under which IBM will manufacture its
single-chip tunable radio frequency (RF) front-ends for mobile handsets, which
both companies will market to tier-one original equipment manufacturers (OEMs).
The first of these customers is due to be before the end of 2010.
The key to WiSpry's competitive advantage is its tunable impedance matching
MEMS technology that uses arrays of switchable capacitive devices that can be
quickly switched in and out to quickly provide over 3-dB of link resilience by
adapting to changes in frequency, antenna conditions (such as being touched by
the user) and other ongoing operational conditions, thereby preventing dropped
calls and improving realtime performance — more "bars" on the cell phone
Today's 3G multi-mode, multi-band mobile wireless devices and tomorrow's 4G
LTE terminals and infrastructure equipment both require dozens of internal RF
front-end components, only a few of which are used for any one time. By going to
a single tunable RF front-end, many of these redundant components can be
eliminated, enabling a drastically smaller form factor as well as reducing the
bill-of-materials for devices.
"We believe that tunability will be a key enabler for the future of wireless
front-ends," said general manager of IBM Microelectronics, Michael Cadigan.
The WiSpry/IBM MEMS RF front-ends will be manufactured with IBM's 180-nm MEMS
process which the companies claim will enable smaller, lower cost handsets that
not only improve performance, but which extend by 25 percent both talk-time and
Internet connectivity time. The ultimately goal of the collaboration is the
development of a complete monolithic tunable RF MEMS system-on-a-chip front-end
for mobile devices.
The collaborative deal was announced today (Monday, June 28, 2010), but has
been ongoing for about 18 months, resulting in integrated MEMS and CMOS devices
in the same package, which are already being sampled by OEMs and which will be
mass produced starting in the second half of 2010.
Related links and articles:
WiSpry patents MEMS
Switching mobile bands
RF-MEMS aims to tune