The first commercial integrated power amplifier circuits using GaAs technology have been designed and manufactured, providing significant performance advantages over comparable silicon devices in the RF front-ends of digital cellular systems.
In mobile communications, the key Radio Frequency (RF) front-end requires high speed signal processing, high power output and a high signal-to-noise ratio (SNR), and the inherent high speed and cost-effectiveness of Gallium Arsenide (GaAs) gives it clear advantages over silicon. The aim of the EGIP project was to bring GaAs microwave IC technology closer to manufacturing maturity, with the development of new, enhanced monolithic GaAs power amplifiers to substitute for expensive and bulky power hybrids. Two companies have now made the first two commercial devices: one for a 1.8 GHz Personal Communication Network (PCN) system and one for a 900 MHz global standard for mobile communications (GSM) system.
Mobile communications is one of the fastest growing markets worldwide, fuelled especially by the transition to digital systems which make better use of frequency bands. Both new amplifiers have been designed to improve the entire system (sensitivity, power consumption, unit size, talk-time, etc.) and to provide cost advantages, a critical factor in this market. Their price/performance will help worldwide market penetration of European-derived digital systems and help secure design wins for European components, especially as the major US and Japanese markets convert from analog to digital.
The first amplifier is a 2-stage, class 2 (0.5 W) power amplifier for PCN handheld units operating between 1710 and 1785 MHz. It has excellent performance, with a Power Added Efficiency (PAE) of 45% with reduced 3-cell batteries (2.7 - 3.6 V), is housed in an SMD (surface mounted devices) package and requires no additional external circuitry. The second, a 2-stage power amplifier for class 4 GSM handheld units (2 W, 890 - 950 MHz) operates from a 5 V supply, with 3 V variants in development. It is housed in an RF optimised SOT223 SMD package and also produces a high PAE, of 46%. Both can be easily integrated with other circuits to provide full system functionality, on a Printed Circuit Board (PCB) or in a Multi-Chip Module (MCM).
These new RF power amplifiers have already been incorporated into the latest integrated transceiver units for mobile communication systems. These use largely silicon ICs for the digital sections; however, as these new power amplifiers show, GaAs is very competitive in the RF analog section, especially for transmitter components operating at low supply voltages.
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Research Area Technologies and Components for Subsystems
Keywords digital cellular systems;gallium arsenide technology; mobile communications;
|Alcatel Telettra IT|
|Daimler Benz DE|
|Dassault Electronique FR|
|GEC-Marconi GMMT UK|
|Philips Microwave PML NL|
|University of Dublin IR|
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