PORTLAND, Ore.— Fabless RF chip supplier WiSpry Inc. has been chosen to supply a micro-electro-mechanical system (MEMS) process for tunable RF front ends that Infineon AG will cast into chips sets that work with smart antennas designed by Molex and Denmark's Aalborg University as part of the $8 million Smart Antenna Front End (SAFE) project.
SAFE will combine Infineon's chip-making know-how with WiSpry's MEMS-RF technology to dynamically tune Molex's smart antennas. The consortium hopes to alleviate today's problems with poor reception, dropped calls and high power consumption associated with poor antenna designs, resulting in an SoC for smaller, lower power, longer battery lived handsets, according to the companies.
"We have the right mix of expertise to combine a RF chip set with a smart antenna and the control algorithms for dynamically tuning it—with WiSpry supplying the glue that holds everything together," said Jeffrey Hilbert, WiSpry's founder. "SAFE will develop a prototype that Infineon can use to build antenna tunability into in its future commercial RF chips."
Funded by Denmark's High Technology Foundation (Copenhagen), the four-year project will combine Infineon Technologies' RF chip expertise with Molex Interconnects smart antenna arrays along with algorithm development at nearby Aalborg University. To facilitate the tunable MEMS RF technology transfer WiSpry will maintain a research center in Aalborg during the lifetime of the project.
The multi-element antenna arrays planned by the SAFE consortium will reconfigure using smart dynamic algorithms to match to different bands and operating conditions. WiSpry's switchable capacitor arrays enable the antenna, filters, matching networks and power amplifier (PA) to all be dynamically tunable for maximum performance.
Just last month, WiSpry announced an effort with IBM Microelectronics to create MEMS system-on-a-chip RF front-ends for wireless mobile handsets, the first customers for which are already sampling IBM's chip set. Since IBM is using the same tunable MEMS RF technology that WiSpry is bringing to Infineon for the SAFE project, SAFE will boot-strap its first generation prototype by just using IBM's chips.
"As a first step, we will take silicon we are already fabbing at IBM to build some of the first SAFE prototypes," said Hilbert.
Tunable MEMS RF front-end technology is aimed at solving the problems of poor reception, dropped calls and short battery life associated with poor antenna designs. The use of multi-element antennas with smart dynamic tuning is also expected to enable much smaller form factors as well as novel shapes in mobile handsets. The techniques developed for handsets, once perfected, will also be useful for other mobile RF devices, according to Hilbert.