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Foundry Files Blog

RF-SOI Enabling 5G and Smarter IoT Applications

EDI CON China 2016, held in Beijing from April 19-21, has scheduled 80 paper sessions, 30 workshops, seven keynotes, with a new track on silicon-on-insulator (SOI) semiconductor technology. On Tuesday April 19th, I will deliver the keynote talk on the emergence of SOI in the RF/microwave industry.

Today, smart phones and tablets contain radio frequency (RF) front-end modules (FEM), which are typically built with power amplifiers (PAs), switches, tunable capacitors, and filters. Technologies such as radio frequency silicon-on-insulator (RF SOI) help mobile devices tune and retain cellular signals– giving wireless devices consistently strong, clear connections from more places.


The mobile market continues to favor RF SOI, as it delivers low insertion loss, reduced harmonics and high linearity over a wide frequency range at a cost-effective price point. RF SOI is a win-win technology option that can improve performance and data speeds in smartphones and tablets, and it is expected to play a key role in the Internet of Things as well.

For RF chipmakers, it brings the benefits of silicon design and integration to the RF front end, and is a low cost alternative to other expensive technologies which lack the scale and integration capability that RF SOI can bring to RF front end module solutions. And, for designers, RF SOI offers design flexibility by integrating multiple RF components onto a single chip without losing valuable circuit board real estate.

This integration enables fewer chips and smaller footprints for mobile applications, that allows mobile makers to design less complex radios with the advanced features their customers expect. Mobile devices that exploit RF SOI technologies for RF front end applications benefit from the same or better linearity and insertion loss against competing technologies, which translates to longer battery life, less dropped calls and higher data speeds.


SOI provides the capability to revolutionize RF Front Ends and WAN RFSOCs through innovation in radio architectures.

More good news for RF market players, technologies like FD-SOI have unique properties and capabilities that can enable RF circuit innovation, and achieve integration levels never before seen in silicon-based technologies. The key to this is the exploitation of the low voltage operating capability and well-bias features of FDSOI, dynamic control of Vdd and the use of well-bias techniques can not only help reduce overall power consumption but can be used as a means to optimize RF circuit operation. This is not something that can be easily done in bulk technologies.

When designing a complex SoC, another advantage is the ability to integrate multiple functionalities that results in a smaller form factor and simpler packaging which is much more cost-effective and in terms of power, more efficient for IoT applications, which is absolutely essential in order to meet the economic requirements of this market and keep pace with evolving network challenges. Although emerging standards such as 5G are still a number of years away, we are already seeing interest in what advantages technologies such as FDSOI/RFSOI can bring in meeting the challenges of systems which need to deliver high speeds/bandwidth at low power.

There is no doubt that demand on our networks will continue to grow. Now more than ever, the underlying communication networks matter and the need for speed is immediate. The mobile world is calling and it’s time for device manufacturers and component designers to capitalize on design flexibility and enablement and supply (capacity assurance) that RF SOI offers.

About Author

Peter A. Rabbeni

Peter Rabbeni joined GLOBALFOUNDRIES in October 2012 and brings over 25 years of design/development, field applications engineering, technical sales, business development and marketing experience in the area of RF design and technologies. Prior to joining GF, Peter served as WW Business Development Program Director of IBM Microelectronics Specialty Foundry Division from 2010 to 2012 where he helped focus the division's 200mm foundry offerings and created one of the most successful and profitable design-win periods in the divisions history resulting in more than $1B in long-term revenue. He joined IBM in 2001 and held various leadership roles in foundry sales and marketing before heading up the business development and strategy responsibility. Prior to IBM, Peter was with Ericsson, Inc. in Research Triangle Park, NC where he was a senior RF system design engineer and contributed to the development of the company's first Japan PDC and US CDMA handset products. Prior to Ericsson, he was with Raytheon Company in Marlborough, MA where he was responsible for leading the development and deployment of critical RF subsystems for the US Navy's NESP satellite communications program. Peter received his BSEE degree from Stevens Institute of Technology and MSEE from the University of Massachusetts in 1986 and 1991, respectively. Peter has co-authored several papers and is a member of the IEEE.

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