Texas Instruments, Altera collaborate to speed RF system design

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This week’s International Microwave Symposium in Montreal is sure to be the launchpad for several product announcements, and today Texas Instruments (TXN) and Altera (ALTR) are starting things off with an RF development kit that they say will cut the time needed to design and verify RF systems from months to weeks.

The Arria V FPGA RF Development Kit uses Altera’s 28 nanomenter field programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) and TI’s analog-to-digital converters (ADCs) and digital-to-analog converters (DACs). FPGAs are chipsets that can be programmed and reprogrammed by customers. The primary benefit between a more costly FPGA vs. the more common application specific integrated circuit (ASIC) are that while ASICs can be mass produced at much lower cost points than FPGAs, the programmable circuits allow customization on a customer-by-customer basis.  In Altera’s case, this allows its development kit to fit into a variety of RF system design scenarios much more nimbly.

Advances in RF testing and system design tools will be key LTE deployment enablers as RF paths must be designed to support a variety of modulation schemes over a variety of air interfaces in cells that combine macro and micro cellular coverage.  Taken together, this adds up to a cumbersome process that can delay initial site design, and ongoing optimization.

Per the two companies’ joint press release the key technical specs of the solution are:

  • 28-nm Arria V FPGA
  • Up to 500 MHz of transmit and feedback bandwidth, enabling 100 MHz of transmit bandwidth with fifth order pre-distortion correction
  • Up to 75 MHz of main/diversity receive bandwidth with 14-bit resolution and 31.5 dB of gain range for multi-carrier 3G and 4G standards
  • Low phase-noise-fractional phase-locked loop (PLL) / voltage-controlled oscillator (VCO) to provide local oscillator for transmit, receive and feedback mixers and modulators

The Arria V FPGA RF Development Kit includes TI reference designs for RF transmit, digital pre-distortion feedback and wide-band dual receiver. The kit will be sold by Arrow Electronics at a list price of $6300.

The International Microwave Symposium is the world’s largest gathering of RF and microwave professionals. It begins today in Montreal and continues through Thursday.

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Martha DeGrasse

Editor, Wireless Infrastructure
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Martha DeGrasse is an editor at RCR Wireless News, and is the creator of the RCR Mobile Minute. Martha has been with RCR Wireless News since 2011. Her current focus areas are wireless infrastructure and heterogeneous networks. Prior to joining RCR Wireless News, Martha produced business and technology news for CNN and Dow Jones in New York. Martha left Dow Jones to move to Austin, Texas, where she managed the online editorial group at Hoover’s Online before taking a number of years off to be at home when her children were young. Follow her at Twitter @mdegrasseRCR

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