GaN power amplifier addresses 5G technology

August 04, 2016 // By Christoph Hammerschmidt
The next generation of mobile radio networks, called 5G, will offer the platform for innovative applications requiring extreme short latency times and / or high data rates up to 10 Gbps. Fraunhofer IAF (Freiburg, Germany) has developed one of the building blocks required to roll out 5G networks: An integrated circuit for power amplifier transistor implemented in gallium nitride technology.

The specific structures on the chip enable base station designers to run the device at relatively high voltages which translates into higher transmitting power than usual, said Fraunhofer researcher Rüdiger Quay. In the related project Flex5Gware, Fraunhofer IAF is already testing prototypes of the device at frequencies to 6 GHz.

In such applications, the energy demand depends on the transmission bandwidth. Every bit transmitted requires a certain, constant amount of energy, explains Quay. Since 5G will allow 200 times higher bandwidths compared to today’s commercial mobile radio infrastructure, it is necessary to significantly improve the energy efficiency of semiconductor components used for the transmission of 5G high-bandwidth signals.

Beyond innovative semiconductors, the scientists also are using measures like highly directional antennas to increase the energy efficiency.

Being a by-product of metal processing Gallium is widely available. The success of white and blue LEDs which also contain GaN contributed significantly to make the production of GaN as affordable as it is today. The result is that today the energy savings a GaN device can achieve throughout its operating life time exceed the higher manufacturing cost of such devices in comparison to silicon, Fraunhofer IAS said.