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Peregrine Semiconductor supports single-SKU global LTE design with new RF front-end

Peregrine Semiconductor aims to shake up the chip market with a re-configurable RF front-end that it says will allow LTE platform providers and original equipment manufacturers to create a single-SKU design for global markets, despite the wide variety of LTE bands in use.

Band fragmentation in LTE has been a major challenge for device makers and a barrier to truly global LTE devices. According to the most recent figures from the Global Mobile Suppliers Association, no single band accounts for more than 50% of LTE deployments. The GSA breaks the figures down as follows:

  • 44% of commercially launched LTE networks use spectrum in the 1800 MHz band.
  • 27% use spectrum in the 2.6 GHz band.
  • 12% use spectrum in the 800 MHz band.
  • 8% use spectrum in the 1.7/2.1 GHz (AWS) band.
  • 9% use other bands not previously mentioned.

Peregine says that in order to support more than 40 frequency bands and “a more than 5,000-fold increase in the number of possible operating states, a truly reconfigurable RFFE is now a requirement.” The company is trying to set itself up as a David-vs.-Goliath competitor to Qualcomm.

“For years, RF engineers have been looking for an integrated, CMOS RF front-end offering that performs as well as GaAs for mobile devices,” said Joe Madden, founder and principal analyst at Mobile Experts. “Peregrine’s UltraCMOS technology has demonstrated GaAs-level efficiency performance at high power, which could be a game-changer.”

The complementary metal-oxide semiconductor (CMOS) is a substantially different approach than the traditional gallium arsenide (GaAs)semiconductor. But Peregrine said its UltraCMOS Global 1 has the industry’s first CMOS power amplifier with the same raw performance as the leading GaAs PAs and a 33% efficiency increase over other CMOS PAs. 

Qualcomm entered the CMOS PA market in the spring of 2013 with its RF360 family of CMOS-based front-end products for wireless devices, according to a research note from Strategy Analytics’ Christopher Taylor, director of RF and wireless components. Qualcomm said at the time that it was trying to solve the issue of band fragmentation, but Taylor noted that the move “also allows the company to capture a significant share of the $5 billion cellular RF front-end component market.”

“In remarks by company officials, it seems clear that Qualcomm hopes to relegate GaAs-based PA-front-end module suppliers to auxiliary, bolt-on PA market niches, essentially relegating them to crumbs left on the table,” Taylor added. “A closer look reveals weaknesses to Qualcomm’s RF360 products, but also acknowledges that CMOS PAs enabled by ET will probably penetrate the market more rapidly and dramatically than anticipated just a few months ago.”

Peregrine, with 25 years of RF research behind its CMOS products, thinks its product will outshine competitors’.  The company is already a supplier for Apple Inc.’s wireless products. Global 1’s entire system includes a multimode, multiband PA, post-PA switch, antenna switch, and antenna tuner.

“Creating a global, single-SKU design for LTE devices is currently the toughest, unmet challenge in RF,” said Jim Cable, CEO of Peregine.

Peregine said the system will complete platform integration in 2014 and be in volume production in late 2015.


Kelly Hill
Kelly Hill
Kelly reports on network test and measurement, as well as the use of big data and analytics. She first covered the wireless industry for RCR Wireless News in 2005, focusing on carriers and mobile virtual network operators, then took a few years’ hiatus and returned to RCR Wireless News to write about heterogeneous networks and network infrastructure. Kelly is an Ohio native with a masters degree in journalism from the University of California, Berkeley, where she focused on science writing and multimedia. She has written for the San Francisco Chronicle, The Oregonian and The Canton Repository. Follow her on Twitter: @khillrcr

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