Friday, March 17, 2006

Mobile Phone Makers Engage in Technological Arms Race

TechNewsWorld covers a recent report from Strategy Analytics about a new chip material, silicon-on-sapphire, that "is starting to make an impact on the way mobile phone handsets are produced, helping to fuel a technological "arms race" in the mobile industry."

The report examined "whether silicon-on-sapphire technology was a stop-gap measure for the manufacture of radio frequency (RF) switches, or whether it was a "disruptive technology" that was changing the marketplace. The researchers, to their surprise, discovered that the technology was indeed helping to reshape the switch market."

Asif Anwar at Strategy Analytics said, "After evaluating this technology, we have concluded that Peregrine's SoS RF switches offer advantages that could displace GaAs in dual-mode WCDMA handsets. GaAs vendors have already moved to address p-HEMT switch shortcomings with improved performance. They have also developed switches with higher complexity -- not yet available in CMOS on SoS."

Chris Taylor at Strategy Analyticsthought that "the chip will succeed in switches for mobile phones because antennae for the phones require complex switch modules, which draw a lot of electric current. The silicon-on-sapphire technology is well-suited to that application."

The article notes a "number of advances in mobile components technology, including radio frequency technology for mobile phones. A variable capacity, or vericap, micro-electromechanical system (MEMS) developed by WiSpry, is claimed to be the first practical RF MEMS for mobile phones."

Taylor said, "If it performs as claimed, the vericap would reduce the number of passive components needed in handsets and enhance the performance of antenna switch modules (ASMs) and transceiver modules."

Carolina Milanesi at Gartner pointed out that "High-end handsets battle it out in the areas of design and technological features. She said, "The survival of the fittest depends more and more on economies of scales, or very carefully cut-out niche markets."