SYS-CON MEDIA Authors: Sean Houghton, Glenn Rossman, Ignacio M. Llorente, Xenia von Wedel, Peter Silva

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Ethertronics Further Revolutionizes the RF Front End with New Addition to Its EtherChip™ Portfolio of Antenna Tuning Chips

During the 2014 GSMA Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Ethertronics, a leading technology company enabling innovative antenna and RF system solutions to deliver the best connected experience, unveiled EtherChip™ EC303™. EC303 is the first in the RF Switch Antenna Tuning Chip™ series that takes Ethertronics even further into the RF Front End (RFFE) system. It is designed for a variety of applications including wireless phones, tablets, notebooks, M2M products, the Internet of Things and other wireless devices.

EtherChip EC303 disrupts the status quo in device design by re-engineering a traditional SP12T switch from the antenna perspective, combining antenna switching, antenna tuning and embedded RAM functionalities on a single substrate, without sacrificing performance. Using a 180nm SOI CMOS foundry, EC303 combines three SP4T RF switches with two 4-bit digitally tunable capacitors and embedded RAM to deliver and maintain high performance across all 2G and 3G bands, as well as the stringent, low 4G LTE bands.

With carrier aggregation on the rise, there is a significant demand for a single antenna to cover a wider frequency range. The antenna is the only RF sensor within a wireless device and reacts differently in high band and low band to environmental loading (hand, head, close proximity of objects, etc.). These differences pose a major challenge for OEMs to make it all work and deliver a superior user experience. A multi-feed antenna offers a distinct advantage since it enables independent control of frequency band subsets across all 2G/3G/4G LTE bands in a more efficient way. With EC303, Ethertronics solves these challenges for OEMS by delivering an antenna-centric RF silicon chip capable of decreasing optimization time and challenges, as well as meeting carriers’ targeted specs, and ultimately fulfilling the mobile user experience. Like other products in the EtherChip portfolio, EC303 is a critical step toward enabling a smarter AFEM (Antenna Front End Module) for cost-effective, efficient and scalable solutions with its embedded RAM. This is critical given that the space available for the RFEE gets squeezed each year forcing component vendors to reduce the overall footprint for RF components inside devices while asking for more complex band coverage and configuration flexibility.

“With EtherChip EC303, we are once again disrupting the status quo by providing OEMs with a single solution that will transform how they ultimately approach device design,” said Laurent Desclos, president and CEO at Ethertronics. “EC303 simplifies the design process for OEMs since it’s a single, complete solution that allows them to support carriers’ requirements and ultimately deliver an enhanced user experience. OEMs no longer need to grapple with integrating RF components that aren’t optimized to seamlessly work with one another. Given that EC303 is an antenna-centric RF silicon chip, it is able to provide the integration of complete antenna tuning and multiband signal path switching for today’s challenging mobile platform RFFEs, along with all control, bias and memory housekeeping functions. This antenna systems approach sets us apart from other antenna companies and positions us as a true antenna system player. EC303 draws on Ethertronics’ more than 14 years of global antenna integration experience, providing a single source for all antenna system aspects including the antenna, the related silicon and the application software tools to manage them. It underscores our continued commitment to helping our OEM customers come to market with smarter, high-performance products.”

Like Ethertronics’ recently announced EtherChip EC949™ and EC975™, EC303 also features embedded RAM. This feature makes EC303, EC949 and EC975 the industry’s only antenna tuning chips with built-in memory capabilities. Embedded RAM allows the tunable capacitor and/or the RF switch to be controlled through the application layer, instead of the baseband software. OEMs will benefit from much easier integration, as they won’t need to modify baseband software or add additional hardware. Ethertronics also provides its proprietary application software to optimize the process of integration.

EC303 has an operating frequency of 100 MHz to 3000 MHz, making it ideal for 2G, 3G and lower 4G LTE band applications. All EtherChip products use SOI technology making them easily scalable and portable. SOI is a perfect alternative to higher cost technology. EC303 can be delivered as a die or a packaged device.

EC303 additionally features a flexible control interface that is OEM-selectable between SPI or MIPI protocols. This interface allows OEMs and integrators to speed up the integration and testing. In addition, by splitting the bands at the switch level, EC303 gains better control of the antenna characteristics and optimization, simplifying RF switching and RF switch linearity and insertion loss requirements. EC303 also provides inter-band isolation and enables additional isolation from multi-feed antennas, which eases requirements for carrier aggregation implementations.

In addition to EC303, Ethertronics offers multiple antenna switching configurations with the same tunability, embedded RAM, software and support offered by EtherChip products.

Ethertronics is showcasing EC303 and several of its other innovative products at GSMA Mobile World Congress and Showstoppers in Barcelona, Spain. The company’s EtherChip 2.0™, part of the EtherChip family of products, has been shortlisted for the GSMA Global Mobile Awards and the Telecoms.com 2014 awards, both of which are being announced during Mobile World Congress. To set up a meeting and learn more, please contact [email protected]. More information on EC303 can be found at http://www.ethertronics.com/products/active/.

About Ethertronics

Headquartered in San Diego, Calif., Ethertronics is a technology company enabling innovative antenna and RF system solutions to deliver the best connected experience for operators, OEMs and consumers. The company – via its Antenna, Systems and Chip Divisions – is established in designing and manufacturing high-performance embedded antenna system solutions supporting a wide range of applications. Ethertronics’ patented Isolated Magnetic Dipole™ (IMD) technology has a legacy as a strong foundation for passive, as well as active antennas designs. Ethertronics’ technology has been selected by major customers with worldwide shipments over 250 million annually. Ethertronics maintains a global network of design centers and manufacturing operations. For more information, visit www.ethertronics.com, and for images of Ethertronics' products contact [email protected].

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