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GaN: The high frequency substrate suitable for 5G applications, Part 6

This blog series describes the utilization of GaN as a substrate for integrated circuits, utilized for 5G high frequency applications, to improve the efficiency of power amplifiers in 5G infrastructures (see Figure 1):

“There has also been significant work on devices at the proposed mmWave frequency bands around 26GHz, 28GHz, 37GHz and 39GHz, although – with the exception of devices from Qorvo – these are in GaAs rather than GaN.” (Source: Innovate UK)

Figure 1

The advantages of GaN technology to realize innovative solutions for more efficient and powerful base stations for 5G wireless infrastructures (Source: Qorvo videos)

 

The advantages of GaN technology to realize innovative solutions for more efficient and powerful base stations for 5G wireless infrastructures (Source: Qorvo videos)

 

It is easy to understand the great value of GaN as a substrate for Integrated circuits by considering the performances of the QPF4006, an IC built by the Qorvo Company, for integrated front-end modules for 5G applications (see Figure 2):

“The QPF4006 is a multi-function Gallium Nitride MMIC front-end module targeted for 39 GHz phased array 5G base stations and terminals. The device combines a low noise high linearity LNA, a low insertion-loss high-isolation TR switch, and a high-gain high-efficiency multi-stage PA. The QPF4006 operates from 37 GHz to 40.5 GHz range. The receive path (LNA+TR SW) is designed to provide 18dB of gain and a noise figure less than 4.5 dB. The transmit path (PA+SW) provides 23 dB of small signal gain and a saturated output power of 2 W. The compact 4.5 mm x 4.0 mm surface mount package configuration is designed to meet the tight lattice spacing requirements for phased array applications. The QPF4006 is fabricated on Qorvo’s 0.15um GaN on SiC process. It is housed in an air-cavity laminate package with an embedded copper heat slug. The copper slug, coupled with a low thermal resistance die-attach process, allows the QPF4006 to operate at the extreme case temperatures needed in phased array applications.” (Source: Qorvo)

Figure 2

The GaN solution for 5G front end modules by the Qorvo Company (Source: Qorvo)

 

The GaN solution for 5G front end modules by the Qorvo Company (Source: Qorvo)

 

The effectiveness of GaN as a new substrate represents a good opportunity for the success of 5G technology:

“5G is approaching rapidly, with the first deployments expected in 2019. Initially, mobile operators are targeting specific applications where they see considerable potential demand and opportunity. However, 5G will expand the global uses of wireless communications. A second wave of applications in 2020 and beyond will include automotive communications, home automation, virtual reality, and potentially millimeter-wave (mmWave) smartphones. Meanwhile, 4G will continue to be enhanced and remain the mainstay of cellular connectivity for many years, even as 5G provides higher data rates and new services….However, path loss at mmWave frequencies presents a key challenge; obstacles such as vegetation, walls and even glass, as well as interference in urban environments, have a significant effect. To compensate, FWA infrastructure will use large antenna arrays and high output power (Figure 3). Current base-station designs under consideration range from 64 to 1024 elements, depending on the technologies used, with a typical target of 65-dBm EIRP….Among the approaches being considered is a hybrid beamforming architecture using a silicon-germanium (SiGe) BiCMOS beamformer and front end. Due to the limited power density of SiGe, this could require a very large array of up to 1024 elements or more, which would then exceed base-station power-consumption and power-dissipation limits. Such a large array also adds considerable signal-routing complexity. An alternative architecture, also using hybrid beamforming, combines a silicon-based beamformer with a GaN RF front end. Because GaN offers much higher power density, it enables smaller, more efficient high-power PAs. Using GaN PAs potentially requires an array of only 64 elements to achieve the same EIRP, which could reduce cost by 80% and use 40% less power.” (Source: Evolving 5G Landscape Creates New RF Challenges, from Electronic Design)

Figure 3

 'Massive-MIMO hybrid-beamforming architecture for 5G mmWave fixed wireless access.' (Source: Evolving 5G Landscape Creates New RF Challenges, from Electronic Design)

 

“Massive-MIMO hybrid-beamforming architecture for 5G mmWave fixed wireless access.” (Source: Evolving 5G Landscape Creates New RF Challenges, from Electronic Design)

 

The road to 5G is open and GaN might be the key factor for the success of this challenge, do you agree?

1 comment on “GaN: The high frequency substrate suitable for 5G applications, Part 6

  1. Andy_I
    October 12, 2018

    Only Figure 1 is there.

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