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Signals Ahead: Improve your [RF] Front-End in Seven Easy Steps!
Signals Research Group, LLC, May 2012, Pages: 36
If you talk to any of the baseband modem suppliers they will tell you that their chipset supports or will soon support many of the nearly forty frequency bands that the industry is targeting or already using for LTE deployments. If the baseband modem was the only bottleneck separating Joe Consumer from owning the smartphone equivalent of a Swiss Army Knife then the industry wouldn't be in the situation that it is today.
The real bottleneck, not to mention the real opportunity for advancing the industry, resides in front of the baseband, or the so- called RF front end. For reasons that should become obvious in the narrative, we have extended the traditional definition of the front end to include the RF transceiver, or RFIC. Other commonly understood front end elements include the duplexers and other filtering mechanisms, the power amplifiers, the switches, and the antennas.
In this issue of Signals Ahead we address the following topics:
The Components. For background purposes, we examine each component that comprises our definition of the RF front end and each component's respective performance characteristics that matter the most.
- The Challenges. There are several challenges pertaining to the RF front end that are directly or indirectly due to the introduction of LTE. These challenges include:
- The number of unique bands that must be supported
- The wider spectral requirements and varying channel bandwidths
- Unique frequency bands that are challenging
- Peak to Average Power Ratio (PAPR)
- Carrier Aggregation
- Two Duplex Schemes
The Solutions. We've identified seven easy steps to improve your [RF] front end. Whether or not these recommendations land this issue of Signals Ahead, the only self-help guide of its kind, on the recommended reading list for Oprah's Book Club is a whole other matter altogether. These solutions, which we examine in detail, include:
- Envelope Tracking
- CMOS Power Amplifiers
- Switches/Tunable Antenna Switches
- Advanced Antenna Solutions
- Open Interface Standards
- Advanced Transceiver Architectures
- Tunable Duplexers - the Holy Grail of the RF Front End
Likely Rollout Strategies. We look at the likely timing of when each frequency band and each frequency band pairing for carrier aggregation will achieve commercial status. Unfortunately, not all bands are created equal so it will still remain challenging for some bands to achieve economies of scale.
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Signals Ahead is a research-focused product that is published on a periodic basis. Its clientele include all facets of the wireless ecosystem, including some of the largest mobile operators, the top handset suppliers, the major infrastructure vendors, subsystem suppliers, semiconductor companies and financial institutions, including Wall Street, Private Equity and Venture Capitalists, spread across five continents.
1.0 Some Background and Perspectives
2.0 The Challenges of LTE and Multi-band Requirements
2.1 The Number of Unique Bands
2.2 The Wider Spectral Requirements and Varying Channel Bandwidths
2.3 Unique Band Challenges
2.3.1 Band 13
2.3.2 Band 7, Band 38 and Band 40
2.4 Peak to Average Power Ratio
2.6 Carrier Aggregation
2.7 Multiple Duplex Schemes – FDD and TDD
3.0 The Solutions (Seven Easy Steps)
3.1 Envelope Tracking
3.2 CMOS Power Amplifiers
3.3 Switches/Tunable Antenna Switches
3.4 Advanced Antenna Solutions
3.5 Open Interface Standards
3.6 Advanced Transceiver Architectures
3.7 Tunable Duplexers and the “Holy Grail” of a True SDR with Compatible RF Front End
4.0 Likely Rollout Strategies
5.0 Final Thoughts
Index of Tables
Table 1. 3GPP FDD Bands for LTE
Table 2. 3GPP TDD Bands for LTE
Table 3. Release 10 Rollout Schedule – by frequency band
Table 4. Logical Carrier Combinations
Index of Figures
Figure 1. The RF Front End
Figure 2. Quantifying the Potential Power Amplifier Efficiency with Envelope Tracking
Figure 3. Quantifying the Potential Gains in Uplink Throughput for HSPA+ using Envelope Tracking
Figure 4. Theoretical Antenna Size Requirements for a Given Carrier Frequency and Bandwidth
Figure 5. Samsung Galaxy S II Phones with and without an Active Antenna Solution
Figure 6. MIPI Alliance Interfaces
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