12 June 2012

Phasor launching phased array transceiver using TowerJazz’s SiGe BiCMOS for satcoms on the move

Specialty foundry TowerJazz (which has fabrication plants at Tower Semiconductor Ltd in Migdal Haemek, Israel, and at its subsidiaries Jazz Semiconductor Inc in Newport Beach, CA, USA and TowerJazz Japan Ltd) and Phasor Solutions Ltd of Lebdury, UK (which was founded by Anglo Scientific Ltd and Richard Mayo in 2005 to develop flat and conformal high-gain antennas to fit on the roof of moving vehicles) have announced a new phased array technology for communications on the move using silicon germanium (SiGe) process platforms from TowerJazz.

Phasor is targeting the multi-billion-dollar satellite communications and radar market with a unique design that provides order-of-magnitude improvement over competing solutions, it is claimed. Phasor recently demonstrated a proprietary technology that allows moving vehicles (aircraft, ships or trucks) to communicate with stationary satellites, or antennas that track moving satellites, with no moving parts. Technically, the system is able to self-align to a desired signal source and track it in real time, which has never been done before, the firm adds.

Phasor is using TowerJazz’s 155GHz SiGe BiCMOS process (SBC18HX) to manufacture its transceiver chipset for mobile broadband service on moving platforms such as trains, manned and unmanned airplanes, and military vehicles. TowerJazz says that Phasor chose its SiGe BiCMOS process over traditional gallium arsenide (GaAs) solutions used in phased array radar due to its ability to operate in the required 12-15GHz band and for its integration capabilities, allowing for multiple analog and digital functions to be integrated into a single chip. As a result, TowerJazz's process yields a reduction in component count, cost and complexities associated with multiple discrete devices.

Over the past 50 years, conventional phased arrays have followed a similar system design, whereas Phasor offers the opportunity to rethink the system design, providing massive efficiencies in cost, it is claimed. Phasor chips include all the radio-frequency functions (amplifiers, oscillators) and phase-shifting circuits, as well as the logic and data modulation/demodulation required. This approach to phased array technology aims to reduce costs more than ten-fold and provide added value such as a flat design (less than 1 inch high), conformal to any surface, modular approach, and high reliability, as there are no moving parts. One of Phasor’s initial targets is wireless internet access on trains, which is an estimated available market of more than 500 million users worldwide. However, airborne satcoms and other Comms-On-The-Move (COTM) applications are likely to be larger markets.

The SBC18HX process offered by TowerJazz includes 0.18µm SiGe bipolar and passive elements combined with high-density 0.18µm CMOS, well suited for high-speed networking and millimeter-wave applications. This process achieves a current-gain cut-off frequency (fT) of 155GHz and a maximum oscillation frequency (fmax) of 200GHz (an optimal choice for a variety of high-frequency applications, it is reckoned). Six layers of metal are standard, with deep trench and metal resistor options.

“It took the industry over 40 years to develop phased arrays which are typically expensive to buy and to operate. But now, with the invaluable support of our partners, and in particular TowerJazz, we have been able to deliver semiconductors which provide an order-of-magnitude reduction in costs compared to current solutions,” says Phasor Solutions’ managing director David Garrood. “Phasor has been able to achieve this milestone with the support of the TowerJazz team and relying on the stability and performance of its SBC18HX process,” he adds.

“Our advanced SiGe BiCMOS technology provides higher integration at lower cost than GaAs solutions, allowing cost-effective satellite communications on the move to be realized,” claims Dr Marco Racanelli, senior VP & general manager for the RF & High Performance Analog and Aerospace & Defense Business Groups at TowerJazz. “Together, we have begun volume manufacturing to enable a high-gain antenna, which consists of 20,000 chips,” he adds.

“In addition, we continue to invest in advanced SiGe, and recently announced our latest process, SBC18H3, which supports devices with speeds of 270GHz and offers a path for further performance, power, and noise improvement in next-generation products,” Racanelli notes.

Phasor Solutions is launching the new phased array product in hall 3, booth D22 at the Farnborough International Airshow 2012 in the UK (9-13 July).

Tags: TowerJazz SiGe BiCMOS

Visit: www.phasorsolutions.com

Visit: www.towerjazz.com

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