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Mobile phone RF is moving toward integrated chip

The communication generation has evolved from 2G to 4G, and each generation of cellular technology has undergone different aspects of innovation. Receive diversity technology is increased from 2G to 3G, carrier aggregation is increased from 3G to 4G, and UHF, 4x4 MIMO, and more carrier aggregation are added to 4.5G.

These changes have brought new growth momentum to the development of mobile phone RF. The RF front end of the mobile phone refers to the communication components between the antenna and the RF transceiver, including filters, LNA (Low Noise Amplifier), PA (Power Amplifier), switch, antenna tuning, and so on.

The filter is mainly used to filter out noise, interference and unwanted signals, leaving only signals in the desired frequency range.

The PA amplifies the input signal through the PA when transmitting the signal, so that the output signal amplitude is large enough for subsequent processing.

The switch uses a switch between on and off to allow the signal to pass or fail.

The antenna tuner is located after the antenna, but before the end of the signal path, the electrical characteristics of the two sides are matched to each other to improve the power transfer between them.

In terms of receiving signals, simply speaking, the signal transmission path is transmitted by the antenna and then passed through the switch and the filter, and then transmitted to the LNA to amplify the signal, then to the RF transceiver, and finally to the fundamental frequency.

As for signal transmission, it is transmitted from the fundamental frequency, transmitted to the RF transceiver, to the PA, to the switch and filter, and finally to the signal transmitted by the antenna.

With the introduction of 5G, more frequency bands, and more new technologies, the value of RF front-end components continues to rise.



Due to the increasing number of 5G-introduction technologies, the amount and complexity of parts used in RF front-ends have increased dramatically. However, the amount of PCB space allocated by smart phones to this function has been declining, and the density of front-end parts has become a trend through modularization.

In order to save mobile phone costs, space and power consumption, the integration of 5GSoC and 5G RF chips will be a trend. And this integration will be divided into three major stages:

Phase 1: The transmission of the initial 5G and 4G LTE data will exist in separate ways. A 7-nm process AP and a 4G LTE (including 2G/3G) baseband chip SoC are paired with a set of RF chips.

Supporting 5G is completely independent of another configuration, including a 10nm process, which can support 5G baseband chips in Sub-6GHz and millimeter band, and 2 independent RF components on the front end, including one supporting 5GSub-6GHz RF. Another support for the millimeter wave RF front-end antenna module.

The second stage: Under the consideration of process yield and cost, the mainstream configuration will still be an independent AP and a smaller 4G/5G baseband chip.

The third stage: there will be a solution for AP and 4G/5G baseband chip SoC, and LTE and Sub-6GHz RF will also have opportunities to integrate. As for the millimeter wave RF front end, it must still exist as a separate module.

According to Yole, the global RF front-end market will grow from $15.1 billion in 2017 to $35.2 billion in 2023, with a compound annual growth rate of 14%. In addition, according to Navian estimates, modularity now accounts for about 30% of the RF component market, and the modularization ratio will gradually increase in the future due to the trend of continuous integration.