The telecom infrastructure market has been driven by macro and micro BTS for decades. Today, with 5G massive MIMO active antenna systems, the radio frequency (RF) component industry is taking advantage of the growing number of RF components. Indeed, the telecom infrastructure RF market is estimated by Yole Intelligence, part of Yole Group, to have been worth $3B in 2021 and is forecast to reach $4.5B in 2025. The market research and strategy consulting company releases this year a report based on dedicated analysis titled: RF for Telecom Infrastructure 2022 – Focus: Mobile Network.
A part of this market is being slowly captured by Sub-6 GHz small cells and new millimeter wave technologies. This bright new spectrum opens the door to very high throughput exchanges while requiring completely new transmission technologies both at user equipment and infrastructure levels. As one of the leading players in the infrastructure market, NXP keeps innovating in 5G mmWave with a new generation of analog beamformers.
In this context, Cyril Buey and Cédric Malaquin, Technology & Market Analysts, RF devices and technology at Yole Intelligence, interviewed Duco Das, 5G Senior Marketing Manager for NXP’s Smart Antenna Solutions product line.
They invite you to discover today their conversation:
Cyril Buey (CB): Please introduce yourself and your company to our readers.
Duco Das (DD): Hello, my name is Duco Das. I’m the 5G Senior Marketing Manager for NXP’s Smart Antenna Solutions product line. Our goal is to accelerate 5G deployments around the globe by delivering industry-leading RF pre-driver and receive amplifiers as well as analog beamformer solutions. We’re excited to be announcing a new generation of analog beamformer products that support 4-channel dual-polarization to improve 5G reliability and offer a high degree of integration to help reduce 5G base station size and costs.
Millimeter wave solutions are deployed in the US, Japan, and other smaller market.
CB: Could you detail NXP’s approach to mmWave for small cells and BTS?
DD: NXP has a portfolio of mmWave beamforming ICs supporting 26 GHz, 28 GHz, and 39 GHz frequency bands in 5G. These products are available for the global market, in all channels. Although the 5G mmWave infrastructure market has not developed as we would have hoped (due to new sub-7 GHz spectrum becoming available worldwide), we see our customers continuing to innovate in mmWave, and bring new products to market. As a result, we continue to innovate in 5G and 6G mmWave technologies as well.
CB: There are many parameters to consider when designing a beamformer (RF power drive, # channels, polarization support, …), and there are many technologies to support these.
Could you explain NXP’s differentiation and technology choice on beamformer IC?
DD: It starts with each customer’s architectural view. We see customers developing base stations based on different amounts of antenna elements, starting at 64 and ranging up to 1024 elements. The number ofelements chosen for a customer’s specific architecture determines the RF power driver and polarization choices, and these in turn drive the requirements for our mmWave products based on SiGe technology. The cost/performance point of SiGe technology seems best from 64 to 512 elements. Customers using 1024 elements often use CMOS-based technology, whereas GaN technology comes into play when only 16 elements are used. We see that SiGe is a well-suited technology for mmWave applications and is targeted in the industry up to 100 GHz frequencies as well.
Massive MIMO radio is key to the 5G rollout strategy.
Cédric Malaquin (CM): Could you elaborate on the impact of MMIMO for RF components? Could you update us on NXP’s RF module portfolio?
DD: Massive MIMO radios, specifically 32T and 64T systems, continue to drive innovation in the cellular infrastructure industry. The need to reduce the size, weight, and cost of these complex systems requires higher levels of integration in the power amplifier solutions without sacrificing traditional RF parameters such as efficiency, gain, and linearizability. The latest multi-chip-module solutions from NXP utilize a mix of technologies (LDMOS, GaN, SiGe) with advanced features such as integrated bias control to enable smaller solutions while delivering excellent RF performance. These RF module products continue to drive Massive MIMO deployments around the globe.
CB: What are NXP’s roadmap and strategy to expand its coverage beyond PA?
DD: We have a complete portfolio of pre-drivers, RXFEMs, and gain blocks based on our in-house SiGe technology. This portfolio expands the PA Driver & Final roadmaps towards a full lineup offering in the TX path, combined with receive functions. In this way, NXP can offer its customers a one-stop shop for all functionality between the transceiver and the antenna in 5G.
CB: NXP has multiple technologies in its portfolio (LDMOS, GaN, SiGe, RFSOI). Could you explain what dictates the technology choice in different scenarios?
DD: We know that differentiation for our customers is often based on the combination of technology innovation with advanced design capability. NXP is one of the very few companies that offer GaN, SiGe, and LDMOS as in-house technologies, and we complement these offerings with RFSOI in functional blocks where it fits best. We sell RF solutions, not RF technology, which leads to the best products for our customers.
CM: GaN is becoming essential for 5G radio. Could you explain why?
DD: GaN, when designed specifically for cellular infrastructure applications, brings higher efficiency and smaller size while enabling wider bandwidth in RF Power compared to LDMOS technology. As the need for smaller, lighter, and more efficient radios for 5G applications continues to grow, GaN becomes a more essential tool in the technology toolbox for cellular infrastructure applications.
NXP’s GaN Fab opened in September 2020.
CM: Could you elaborate on the impact of NXP’s GaN fab on the adoption of GaN in the Telecom infrastructure industry?
DD: GaN technology provides the most impact when it is designed specifically for the telecommunications industry. That is one of the reasons NXP’s GaN fab has accelerated the adoption of this disruptive technology into the cellular infrastructure market. By developing the GaN technology in-house, we can apply that technology to deliver smaller, higher efficiency solutions for both MMIMO and traditional macro applications.
CM: Do you see NXP’s GaN solutions adopted in other markets, such as aerospace, defense, or radar? Do you plan further capacity expansion over the coming years?
DD: The NXP GaN fab is primarily focused on making chips for the 5G infrastructure market globally but is also well suited for and supplies solutions to adjacent markets. It’s exciting to see the growing adoption of GaN in the market, especially for cellular infrastructure, and the NXP fab is well-positioned to meet this increasing demand.
Research and discussions on 6G have started worldwide with the objective to go beyond mmWave, into the sub-THz spectrum.
CM: What is NXP’s position on 6G?
DD: It is clear that cellular communications will continue to evolve over time. Today we are in the 5G deployment cycle, which will obviously be followed by something called 6G. We expect that 6G waveforms and new technology will initially be deployed in existing cellular frequency bands. A number of new frequency bands are also being investigated, including the 6-24 GHz “mid-band” range which builds further on 5G technology. Additionally, we see high bandwidth and spectrum becoming available in the 100 GHz range, sub-THz spectrum. For 6G, this expected wide THz bandwidth drives innovations toward combined use cases based on Joint Communications and Sensing (JC&S), which facilitates new functions like situational awareness to become available from communication network technology.
CM: Do you have a final word for our readers?
DD: From antenna to processor, NXP offers a robust portfolio of technologies for accelerating 5G deployments that deliver best-in-class performance and security for infrastructure, industrial and automotive applications. NXP, along with our growing ecosystem of partners, is overcoming technical challenges telecom customers face when deploying 5G by providing solutions with greater power efficiency, smaller size, and lighter footprint.
About the interviewee
Duco Das is the 5G Senior Marketing Manager for NXP Semiconductors’ Smart Antenna Solutions product line. In this role, he leads marketing for NXP’s innovative pre-driver and receive amplifier as well as analogue beamformer solutions for 5G cellular infrastructure.
In addition to marketing management, he has held product management positions at Vodafone in roaming, pre-paid, and consumer data, and product management and business development positions at Philips in the wireless industry. Duco earned his master’s degree in computer science from the Delft University of Technology in The Netherlands.
About the interviewers
Cyril Buey, Ph.D., is a Technology and Market Analyst in Radio Frequency and Wireless Communication at Yole Intelligence, part of Yole Group. As a member of the Power & Wireless Division at Yole, Cyril is dedicated to the development of technology and market reports in the telecommunication infrastructure and network fields.
Prior to Yole, Cyril worked at NSE as an Electronics Engineer and then moved on to a project manager position to develop aeronautical and defense products.
Cyril holds a master’s degree in Microelectronics, Nanotechnologies and Telecom from Lille University (France) and a Ph.D. in Electronics, Antenna and Propagation from the Nice Côte d’Azur University (France).
Cédric Malaquin is Team Lead Analyst of the RF activity within the Power & Wireless Division at Yole Intelligence, part of Yole Group. In this position, Cédric manages the technical expertise and the market knowledge of his team for the company. Based on the team’s contribution to multiple reports and custom analyses dedicated to the automotive, telecom infrastructure, and consumer markets, Cédric actively shapes Yole’s products, such as the RF Quarterly Market Monitor, while developing Yole’s activity in RF. With technical expertise and market knowledge in RF, Cédric also assists and supports Yole’s financial department.
Prior to Yole, Cédric served as a process integration engineer and then as an electrical characterization engineer at Soitec (France). He has (co-)authored several international papers and patents.
Cédric graduated from Polytech Lille (France) with an engineering degree in microelectronics and material sciences and holds a DEA in microwave and microtechnology from the University of Lille.