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12 November 2008


RFMD signs $1.4m DoD contract to develop GaN technology and high-power RF solutions

At its fourth annual Analyst Day in New York today, RF Micro Devices Inc of Greensboro, NC, USA said that it has signed a 12-month $1.4m contract with the US Department of Defense (DoD) for the development of gallium nitride technology and high-power RF solutions.

The contract represents an extension to previous DoD contracts and is in support of RFMD's ongoing GaN RF power technology project (targeting military and civilian radar systems and multi-band radios requiring wideband, high-efficiency amplifiers up to 500W), with the aim of extending the cut-off frequency of RFMD’s GaN process up to 90GHz.

“We are fortunate to have future program support to expand the frequency capability of our GaN process into millimeter-wave frequencies, enabling us to target new radar, electronic warfare (EW) and satcom radio applications,” says Jeff Shealy, VP & general manager of RFMD’s Aerospace & Defense business unit.

The goals of the program include reliability verification, passive element development and technology qualification of a manufacturable 48V GaN RF power process for amplifiers and switches. In addition, the current program supports the demonstration of wideband, high power GaN MMIC amplifier and switch circuits targeting L-, S-, and C-band applications.

RFMD says that it has recorded contract revenue in excess of $1m over the last six months, and expects to receive additional DoD contract awards in 2009. Beyond the current program, RFMD has $5m in contract backlog to expand the capabilities of its GaN RF technology over the next 18 months and has received nearly $10m in DoD contract funding since 2004.

“Our recent award and strong DoD contract funding backlog highlight our growing presence in the aerospace & defense marketplace,” says Bob Van Buskirk, president of RFMD’s Multi-Market Products Group. “RFMD anticipates its efforts in GaN RF power technology development will support multiple advances across a range of applications, including aerospace & defense, wireless infrastructure and CATV infrastructure.”

Compared to currently available high-power RF technologies, RFMD expects its GaN technology to deliver configurable wideband, high-power amplifiers with improved efficiency and ruggedness. Configurable wideband amplifiers enable radio architecture convergence with reduced bill of materials (BOM) complexity, while improved ruggedness adds further protection in challenging operating environments, says the firm.

As RFMD is the world’s largest GaAs manufacturer (with a high-volume supply chain) and produces the GaN internally, the firm expects to offer it at very competitive pricing. The addressable market for GaN RF power technology is expected to be about $172m by 2012, driven by aerospace & defense, 3G-BTS, WiMAX infrastructure and cable TV (CATV) applications, although GaN for WiMAX will depend strongly on LTE (long-term evolution) market penetration and the related frequency in use.

RFMD has also announced that its GaN process technology, fabricated in its high-volume commercial wafer fab, has been released for production designs for a broad range of aerospace & defense and commercial applications.

See related items:

RFMD improves operating income after restructuring

RFMD expands product portfolio to microwave and millimeter-wave components