ASN Exclusive Interview: Skyworks on SOI for RF


Skyworks has a growing portfolio of chips on SOI. Kevin Walsh, the company’s Marketing Director of Analog Solutions, tells ASN why.

Kevin Walsh, Marketing Director of Analog Solutions, Skyworks
Kevin Walsh, Marketing Director of Analog Solutions, Skyworks

Advanced Substrate News: Can you tell us generally about Skyworks’ vision and position in the market?

Kevin Walsh: Skyworks Solutions, Inc. is an innovator of high performance analog semiconductors and one of the world’s largest wireless semiconductor manufacturers, producing over five million semiconductors per day.  Skyworks supports multiple markets and applications including automotive, broadband, cellular infrastructure, energy management, GPS, industrial, medical, military, wireless networking, smartphones and tablets. Whether it is through discrete semiconductors, complex modules or highly integrated solutions, Skyworks is an enabler of ubiquitous connectivity. With the “Internet of Things” upon us, our vision is to be the market leader in wireless applications for whatever segments we enter.

ASN: What kinds of chips does Skyworks put on SOI? Why?

KW: Skyworks is technology agnostic so depending upon the customer’s needs and application, our design engineers will choose the best technology for the given performance requirements and price point. And with our manufacturing team being so adept at integrating all types of semiconductor technology into our products, it does not matter whether it is a single die module or multi-chip modules featuring a combination of GaAs, CMOS, SiGe and SOI dies. So essentially, whatever is required to benefit our customer’s needs is what we will choose.
Having said that, SOI specifically favors applications requiring high levels of integration and small device size. Our SOI product portfolio includes RF switches, digital attenuators and low noise amplifiers for LTE and multimode cellular systems, wireless LAN and general RF switch industrial applications – given their requirements for increasingly more functionality in a small size.

Examples of two of Skyworks’ many SOI-based chips: SKY13448-001: 8-bump WLCSP, 200 μm diameter, 400 μm pitch (1.1 x 1.1 x 0.36 mm) package SKY13477: 15-bump WLCSP, 200 μm diameter, 400 μm pitch (1.942 x 1.142 x 0.420 mm) package
Examples of two of Skyworks’ many SOI-based chips:
SKY13448-001: 8-bump WLCSP, 200 μm diameter, 400 μm pitch (1.1 x 1.1 x 0.36 mm) package
SKY13477: 15-bump WLCSP, 200 μm diameter, 400 μm pitch (1.942 x 1.142 x 0.420 mm) package

ASN: What are the advantages in moving to SOI-based technologies?

KW: There is a misconception that moving to SOI is all about cost. It is clear that when you compare SOI costs to bulk CMOS costs, SOI starting costs are substantially higher. However, SOI is still a valid starting point for designing certain devices given that it allows the digital logic, analog and RF circuitry to exist on the same die. The end result is a smaller form factor for the switch or LNA functionality when compared to some alternative multi-die methods.
In today’s consumer devices, there is a much smaller area allocated for RF functionality, in large part to accommodate for the myriad of other new functions being designed into these connected platforms. In other words, the RF space is getting smaller with the addition of new components. This is especially true in smartphones where more sensor technology exists today than in previous product generations. This all requires increasing levels of integration, which is helping SOI’s adoption in the RF space.

Block diagram, Skyworks’ Family of SkyOne™ Front-End Module (FEM) Solutions, which integrates all RF and analog content between the transceiver and antenna on SOI  for simplified design within demanding next generation mobile platforms.
Block diagram, Skyworks’ Family of SkyOne™ Front-End Module (FEM) Solutions, which integrates all RF and analog content between the transceiver and antenna on SOI for simplified design within demanding next generation mobile platforms.

ASN: What are the growth drivers (end-markets, trends) for your CMOS chips, especially those on SOI?

KW: Everywhere we turn there is an explosion of applications requiring mobile connectivity: automotive, broadband, cellular infrastructure, energy management, GPS, industrial, medical, military, wireless networking, smartphones and tablets, to name just a few. Add to that connecting wirelessly to cloud-based computing (where applications and data are located on Web servers with users accessing that data through application portals on their devices), location-aware advertising (that uses data to alert consumers to deals near them), the explosion of social media and on-demand content, and you begin to see that consumers demand access anywhere and anytime.
But with this increasing demand for a seemingly endless range of devices that touch our everyday lives comes an unprecedented level of complexity. These high performance solutions must preserve battery life, increase data rates and solve signal interference problems while occupying minimal board space. This complexity plays directly to Skyworks’ strengths and technology agnostic approach. We have experience in all core building blocks and specialized process technologies to deliver a complete system solution.
Skyworks is well positioned to capitalize on the “Internet of Things” Tsunami and lead the way in semiconductor innovation across the broader analog semiconductor market.

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