The RF front-end module (FEM) is one of the most complex and critical designs in 4G LTE-A and 5G smartphones and base stations. Acting as an interface between the antenna and RF transceiver, the FEM integrates the RF components required for analog performance, such as multiple RF switches, low noise amplifiers (LNAs), power amplifiers (PAs), and antenna tuners.
The growing use of multiple antenna elements (or high order MIMO) and multiple bands combined with carrier aggregation requirements have raised 5G FEM complexity and integration, thereby increasing RF silicon content in the latest smartphones and RF infrastructures.
Leveraging its strong know-how in silicon-on-insulator technology, ST developed a complete RF-SOI technology portfolio that includes H9SOIFEM and C65SOIFEM nodes. ST’s RF-SOI technology is a specialized process, optimized to perfectly meet the demanding analog RF performance and integration requirements of RF front-end modules for 4G, 5G, 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz RF connectivity and narrowband IoT devices, also known as LTE Cat NB1.
The key applications of H9SOIFEM technology include 4G LTE-Advanced and 5G sub-6 GHz RF FEMs with a focus on switch performance and RF integration. H9SOIFEM technology also addresses the requirements of RF FEMs for 2.4 to 5 GHz and narrowband IoT devices. The H9SOIFEM process is built on a 130 nm technology node and is manufactured on 8 inch wafers.
This process supports multiple active devices, including MOSFETs optimized for RF switches and LNAs, and high breakdown-voltage NLDMOS optimized for PAs in order to address all key RF components. The process also offers a choice of passive components, such as high-current and high-Q factor inductors, high-value poly resistors, capacitors, RF diodes and RF varactors.
In order to ensure performance and flexibility despite process complexity, multiple back-end stack options are available, including the possibility to implement a top thick copper layer for improved transmission lines and inductance performance.
C65SOIFEM is optimized for LNA performance across the entire 5G sub-6 GHz bands, with the key added value of integrating a switch capability. The C65SOIFEM process is built on a 65nm technology node and manufactured on 12inch wafers. It includes a low-noise, high-speed 1.2 V MOS (with fMAX = 200 GHz) optimized for 5G sub-6 GHz band. This device addresses the increasing demand of LNAs, in both receiver diversity and the main antenna path, driven by 4 x 4 MIMO and multi-band requirements.
As a key benefit, C65SOIFEM technology enables the integration of LNAs and switches, as required by most 5G UHB Rx FEMs. The process also features an extended set of options for active devices, including MOSFETs optimized for RF switches and LNAs in the sub-6 GHz band, and passive components, such as spiral inductor, RF diodes, capacitors, and high value poly resistors. The back-end of line stack is full copper, for low-loss transmission lines and high-Q inductance.