Chips today for consumer electronics are practically all done using a technology known as CMOS (Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor, silica-based). However, for the high frequency parts in a radio transceiver which are present in all communication devices,  another technology based on gallium compounds has been considered better suited in terms of high frequency performance. However, this technology has been limited by the fact that integration of different parts is more complicated and the production cost is relatively high. Therefore, in comparison, CMOS technology has several advantages as it is easy to integrate different circuit functions on the same chip and the manufacturing cost for large volumes is low per unit.

Wireless mmWave communication uses several different high frequency bands (28GHz, 39GHz, etc.). The traditional approach would therefore be to design several different chips covering the corresponding frequency bands. However, the combination of different frequency bands into one chip would have several advantages, such as minimising the number and length of connections and thereby internal losses. In addition, losses are also heavily reduced if we then integrate the chips with antennas in packages.   

It can therefore be summarized that it’s very beneficial if a chip covers several frequency bands, integrates several circuit functions into one chip, is easy to manufacture and has a low production cost per unit. It is also advantageous if the chip is power efficient, especially if it will be used in battery powered devices. 

BeammWave’s know-how of the system architecture, including digital beamforming algorithms, mmWave radio, and baseband interface allows us to optimize both the hardware and software for high system performance, i.e. we hunt down optimal performance in the complete system of which the mmWave radio is one part of. This concept allows us to comply with today’s stringent demands on radio design; a small physical size (without need for external power amplifiers), power efficiency, fast interface, and useful in different applications (smartphones, Consumer Premises Equipment (CPE), micro base stations, IoT devices). Finally, this approach gives us a more scalable and energy efficient digital beamforming solution for mmWave frequencies.

Posted by Markus Törmenen

Co-founder and Associate Professor in chip design at the University of Lund

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