Friday, March 03, 2006

Strategy Analytics: RF technology for Cellphones

Strategy Analytics has two recent reports focusing on RF technology for handsets. The first claims RF MEMS for Cellphones Near Readiness and "recognizes WiSpry's MEMs varicap (variable capacitor) as a practical device that could reduce handset bills of material." Strategy Analytics writes that "WiSpry's first product, a varicap duplexer, scheduled for production release in Q1 2006, is a two-state, tunable notch filter suitable for CDMA and W-CDMA handsets. WiSpry plans to release other products based on its technology, including RF MEMs switches and Power Amplifier (PA) modules."

Chris Taylor at Strategy Analytics said, "While it is difficult to predict WiSpry's ultimate success in the cellular handset market, this company appears to have developed a practical MEMS (micro electromechanical systems) device with compelling benefits. If it performs as claimed, WiSpry's varicap would reduce the number of passive components needed in handsets and enhance the performance of antenna switch modules (ASMs), PAs, and transceiver modules."

Asif Anwar at Strategy Analytics observed that "On the other hand, offering complete PA modules seems unwise given the competitive nature of the market, and the dominance of large, established, GaAs and LDMOS vendors such as RF Micro Devices, Skyworks and Renesas Technology. Such a move would put WiSpry in direct competition with its customers."

The second report found that Silicon-On-Sapphire Disrupts RF Switch Market. The firm evaluated "CMOS silicon-on-sapphire (SoS) RF switches, and found that SoS has begun to disrupt established approaches to transmit-receive (T/R) switching in multi-mode, multi-band cellular handsets."

Strategy Analytics notes that "Peregrine Semiconductor has shipped several million CMOS SoS RF switches to customers for GPRS handsets. Recently, the company released SP7T "HaRP" SoS RF switches for dual-mode W-CDMA handsets, claiming that these offer superior performance to GaAs p-HEMT switches."

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. However, 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. These moves will limit the penetration of CMOS SoS in applications now served by p-HEMT switches to a few design-wins at best."

Chris Taylor at Strategy Analytics added, "CMOS SoS will continue to have its greatest success in displacing p-i-n diodes in antenna switch modules. The multiple p-i-n diodes required for complex antenna switch modules (tri- and quad-band) draw significant current. Peregrine has already demonstrated the suitability of its technology for this application."