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29 November 2012

Samsung’s Galaxy Appeal indicates shift from GaAs to CMOS PAs for 3G handsets

Samsung’s Galaxy Appeal is one of the first mass-produced phones to ship with a high-performance 3G CMOS silicon power amplifier (PA), according to market analyst firm ABI Research in its ‘SAMSUNG GALAXY APPEAL (I827) Teardown’ report.

Despite the historical presence of CMOS in the 2G handset market, concerns over performance have severely limited its progress in the 3G domain, notes the firm. The incumbent manufacturers of GaAs-based PAs - such as Avago Technologies, TriQuint Semiconductor, RF Micro Devices, Skyworks Solutions and Anadigics - have not felt any real impact to date. However, new products such as the J5501 Band 1 PA from Javelin Semiconductor Inc of Austin, TX, USA - as found in the Galaxy Appeal - indicate that this performance gap has been narrowed significantly, reckons ABI.

“Even though the CMOS PA is over 3 times the die area of a typical GaAs PA (3.3mm2 vs 1mm2 in the Appeal, for example), the lower CMOS wafer cost, simple packaging, and the added digital content (that reduces test times) allow the CMOS PAs - such as the ones produced by Black Sand and Javelin - to compete competitively on cost as well as performance,” says Jim Mielke, VP of engineering at ABI. The market should, “Expect single-digit market share numbers for CMOS PAs in 2013,” he adds. “The CMOS PA market volumes could be even higher if Qualcomm is successful with their penta-band CMOS PA they are actively presenting now.”

ABI says that product testing of the Galaxy Appeal and the Javelin J5501 Band 1 provided some conclusions that may be central to this evolving market:

  • CMOS PAs match GaAs efficiency across all power levels up to 22.5dBm; 
  • CMOS PAs have an efficiency advantage at low power levels (up to 20% low current);
  • GaAs PA die are significantly smaller then CMOS equivalents (1m2 vs 3.3mm2); and
  • both GaAs and CMOS PAs can be manufactured for under $0.40.

Tags: ABI Javelin CMOS PAs



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