SAN JOSE, Calif. – Qualcomm Inc. will apply CMOS integration and system-in-package techniques to ease the job of supporting the 40 globally fragmented spectrum bands for LTE. The company announced plans for a family of integrated RF devices at the heart of its efforts, the first of which ships in the second half of this year.
Spectrum fragmentation is one of the biggest concerns for LTE designers, said Ericsson engineers at the International Solid State Circuits Conference this week. Qualcomm’s announcement is one of a flurry of new standalone and integrated LTE devices being shown at next week's Mobile World Congress by companies including Altair, Broadcom, Fujitsu, Intel, Nvidia and Renesas.
Qualcomm’s RF360 vision starts with its first CMOS power amplifier integrated on a single die with an antenna switch. The chip will be mated using an undisclosed 3-D technique with another die that integrates SAW filters and duplexers in a total device just a millimeter thick.
“This kind of integration has really never been done in the RF space before,” said Peter Carson, a product management director for modems at Qualcomm.
The result is a more expensive device, but one that reduces board space by 50 percent. That gives phone makers room for other discretes and power amps, allowing support for more roaming bands than today’s handsets accommodate, said Carson.
In tandem with the new RF part, Qualcomm will release a cellular transceiver that doubles the number of ports on the company’s current devices. Qualcomm is not saying exactly how many bands the transceiver and integrated RF chips will support.
The new transceiver also will support carrier aggregation, a feature of LTE-Advanced that lets carriers pair spectrum bands to enable higher data rates.
Qualcomm has a road map for both the transceivers and RF front ends supporting an increasing number of spectrum bands for a diversity of markets. The initial parts support the company’s Snapdragon 800 and high-end Gobi data modems
“We are introducing this in the high end because that’s where the demand is for LTE mobility,” Carson said. “At the end of the day, there is a cost savings,” for OEMs trying to create phones with global roaming capabilities, he added.
Qualcomm will introduce two new chips along with the integrated RF device. An antenna matching tuner can be configured to adjust antenna operation from 700-2700 MHz to extend range. A voltage controller helps reduce power consumption and heat in the power amp.
"While 2G and 3G technologies each have been implemented on four to five different RF bands globally, the addition of LTE brings the total number of cellular bands to approximately 40," said Alex Katouzian, senior vice president of product management at Qualcomm Technologies Inc., in a press statement. The new chips address a variety of use cases “from those requiring only a region-specific LTE solution, to those needing LTE global roaming support," he said.