Murata selects Black Sand CMOS PAs for 3G front ends

May 08, 2012 // By Peter Clarke
Japanese passives to power supplies giant Murata Manufacturing Co. Ltd. (Tokyo, Japan) has selected CMOS power amplifiers from Black Sand Technologies Inc., (Austin, Texas) for use in RF front-end modules for 3G mobile phone handsets.

Integrating the PA together with other RF front-end components into a single module allows for better optimization of performance, battery current, size, and cost, said Black Sand.

"Tier 1 cellular manufacturers are demanding increasing levels of sophistication and integration throughout the handset, and RF is no exception," said .Norio Nakajima, vice president of the module business unit at Murata, in a statement issued by Black Sand.

John Diehl, CEO of Black Sand, could not put a value of the design win with Murata. "There's no exclusivity either way. But we've chosen to work together as best-in-class partners," he said. "This agreement represents a major opportunity for both companies: industry estimates tell us that the market for RF front end components is growing at a CAGR of around 15 percent, and will reach in excess of $5.5 billion by 2014." Diehl was referencing a market research report from Needham and Co.

Mobile device manufacturers have long sought a viable CMOS alternative to GaAs that will enable them to benefit from an improved supply chain, higher reliability, and lower cost.

Diehl said that envelope-tracking (ET), the method of matching PA voltage to the instantaneous power output required was something that CMOS PAs enabled but that the market seemed to be applying it more to 4G than to 3G communications.

"CMOS does allow more smarts in the PA. Our BST35 family has an integrated power detector that can be used to achieve 2-dB of additional power output on the output antenna," he said. "We are bringing that [ET] capability into a 4G context. We have no announcement on 4G-optimized ET for now."

Diehl concluded: "Collaborating with ET partners is part of the strategy," but he declined to name partners.