ASN had a chance to catch up with Duncan Pilgrim, Peregrine Semi’s new VP of Marketing. Here he shares insights into the company’s new reconfigurable RF front end.
Duncan Pilgrim is the VP of marketing at Peregrine Semiconductor. A 17-year semiconductor industry veteran, he previously served as VP of marketing for Sequoia Communications and held product, strategic and technical marketing roles at RFMD. His strong technical background comes from engineering positions at RFMD, GEC Plessey Semiconductor and Marconi. Pilgrim earned a master’s degree in business administration from Wake Forest University and a bachelor’s degree in electronic engineering from University of Birmingham in the UK.
Advanced Substrate News (ASN): At Mobile World Congress in February 2014, Peregrine introduced the UltraCMOS® Global 1 reconfigurable RF front-end system. Can you tell us about it?
Duncan Pilgrim (DP): UltraCMOS® Global 1 is an integrated RF front-end solution. The architecture differs from existing solutions because it is 100-percent CMOS-based, which enables all components to be integrated. Global 1 delivers reconfigurability and performance that – for the first time – make possible a single, global SKU that accommodates all 40+ LTE bands and more than 5,000 RF states. The UltraCMOS Global 1 RFFE system includes a 3-path multimode, multiband (MMMB) PA, post-PA switch, antenna switch and antenna tuner; support for envelope tracking; and a common RFFE MIPI interface.
Unique to Global 1 is the power amplifier’s exceptional performance. As anyone who saw our demonstration at Mobile World Congress can attest, the performance figures are truly remarkable. After eight years of research and development, we have introduced the first CMOS SOI power amplifier (PA) to meet the performance of GaAs-based products and exceed the performance of existing CMOS PAs by 10 percentage points. This represents a 33-percent efficiency increase over existing CMOS PAs.
Like all Peregrine products, Global 1 is based on Peregrine’s deep expertise in RF-SOI CMOS. For 25 years Peregrine and its founders have been pioneering RF SOI with the vision of creating an integrated RFFE based on CMOS. Global 1 is the culmination of this vision and is based on Peregrine’s latest advancement in UltraCMOS technology, the UltraCMOS 10 platform.
ASN: What markets does Global 1 target? What are the market drivers?
DP: The market for LTE devices has grown rapidly, and it has put unprecedented demands on the performance of the RF front end (RFFE). Historically, the RFFE has been a collection of products designed independently by a broad range of different vendors on a mix of disparate technologies. This was an acceptable solution before mobile-data demand drove the proliferation of bands and advanced technologies such as LTE and carrier aggregation. Today’s market demands more, but existing RFFE technology has limited OEMs’ ability to deliver a single reference design that works in all global regions – a single, global SKU.
Consider Apple’s recent iPhone 5S launch, which had five SKUs to accommodate different regions. Our research showed that the only obvious difference between the devices was the RFFE content. Had the technology been available for Apple to release an iPhone with a single, global SKU, imagine the cost savings in engineering, validation, manufacturing and supplier and inventory management.
With an exponential increase in RFFE complexity, integration is critical. Only a truly reconfigurable RFFE will enable a single, global SKU, and a reconfigurable RFFE is only possible if the entire system is based on CMOS. Global 1 enables LTE platform providers and OEMs to save time and money by creating a single-SKU design for global markets. With greater flexibility and choice, Global 1 meets the next wave of global, mobile-device innovation.
ASN: What are the benefits for your customers?
DP: RF design engineers will benefit most from the UltraCMOS Global 1 system because it can dramatically reduce the engineering and validation time required, but Global 1 really benefits the entire wireless ecosystem. Platform providers can develop a single reference platform, reducing reference design development costs and validation time. OEMs can design a single, global SKU, cutting R&D costs, accelerating time to market, streamlining supply chains and improving inventory management. Finally, wireless operators can reduce capital investments in their network with improved RFFE performance, resulting in better coverage and reductions in dropped calls.
ASN: What are the benefits for the end-user?
DP: Global 1 also benefits the end-user. Consumers can enjoy longer battery life, better reception, faster data rates and wider roaming range. These impressive benefits are made possible by the properties of CMOS and by RFFE integration.
ASN: You mentioned the UltraCMOS 10 technology platform earlier. Can you provide some background on it, and why it’s particularly well-suited to the Global 1 system?
DP: We introduced the UltraCMOS 10 technology platform in October 2013. It is the latest in a long, highly-successful RF-SOI line for Peregrine. The technology leverages Peregrine’s design expertise along with Soitec semiconductor materials and a unique, GLOBALFOUNDRIES fabrication flow to deliver over 50-percent improvement – measured by the Ron Coff figure of merit. This figure of merit directly impacts key performance metrics such as insertion loss, isolation and product size. UltraCMOS 10 technology delivers both flexibility and unparalleled performance for addressing the ever-increasing challenges of RF front-end design, making it an ideal foundation for Global 1.
ASN: Are there other UltraCMOS 10 technology-based products in the pipeline?
DP: Yes, UltraCMOS 10 technology will be the foundation for Peregrine’s mobile wireless products, including our high-performance switches and tuners. The technology platform gives smartphone manufacturers flexibility and value without compromising quality for devices ranging from 3G through LTE networks. When we introduced UltraCMOS 10 technology in October, we also announced the sampling of the first RF switches built on the UltraCMOS 10 technology platform.
ASN: When will Global 1 be available?
DP: Global 1 will complete platform integration in 2014 and will be in volume production in late 2015.