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The First Commercial Cellular Transceiver with On-chip PAs

by Chris Taylor | Jul 31, 2012

On 27 July, 2012, Intel announced the SMARTi UE2p, the first commercial cellular transceiver with on-chip PAs. 

Intel has confirmed that the SMARTi UE2p integrates two full-power 3G PAs on chip with the transceiver, monolithically in 65 nm CMOS, along with PA power control.  This allows the transceiver to cover PA duties for two common W-CDMA bands, for example one high / low band combination such as B1 (1920 MHz – 1980 MHz) and B8 (880 MHz – 915 MHz) for devices sold in Europe, with no need for external PAs.  A mobile device using the SMARTi UE2p requires only two duplexers and an antenna switch in the front end.  If installed on a PCB with two high-quality duplexers, SMARTi UE2p could, we think, use co-banding to eliminate the RF switch completely and still cover quad-GPRS and dual-band W-CDMA.

Our interpretation is that this product will find its way into very low-cost handsets, posing a threat to external GaAs PA suppliers, but especially to low-cost CMOS PA suppliers such as Javelin and Black Sand.  The SMARTi UE2p could also end up in appliances such as internet-connected toaster ovens in the M2M sector, where we will have IP connected devices that are stationary and plugged into wall outlets.  For such devices, power added efficiency and other PA performance parameters are not as much off a concern as in battery operated devices such as handsets.

It will be interesting to see the technical specs for the SMARTi UE2p, especially the RF output and PAE.  This first-of-its-kind product increases the addressable market for Intel at the expense of external PA suppliers, potentially changing the game for both chipset and PA suppliers, especially in the lowest-cost segments of the cellular terminal market.

Christopher Taylor

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