Today’s world is overwhelmingly digitalized. The integration of information and communication technologies in people’s lives is unprecedented, and the volume of data being constantly exchanged is growing drastically. This need for instant access to web and information and for quick communications has a massive impact on the consumer electronics landscape. With the growing number of connected devices from a wide range of sectors, including automotive and aviation industries, there is a need for improved semiconductor performance which will help to maximize the benefits and lower the costs.
All this technology relies on semiconductor as a Key Enabling Technology - each connected object contains several semiconductor components for data reception, computing, sensing, system management, and data emission. Among these components, the Radio Frequency Front End Modules (RF FEM), which enables signal reception and transmission, are the key elements to move to 4G+ and 5G standards which will be the leading communication technology of the next decade. However, at this moment no silicon-based solution is available to meet 4G+ and 5G performance and integration requirements.
This is where REFERENCE projects steps in – to develop Radio Frequency communication applications based on RF Silicon-on-Insulator (RF-SOI), which is perceived as the most promising disruptive technology to address performance, cost and integration needs for next generations’ RF FEM components. The core objectives of REFERENCE are:
- Improving the performance to match the new standards requirements above 1Gb/s data rate, which includes linearity enhancement and significant reduction of signal losses, increased device and performance stability, and integration of RF, analogue and digital on the same silicon chip;
- Developing of innovative RF-SOI substrates for 4G+ / 5G that are compatible with standard silicon manufacturing processes, match characteristics and perform at standard yield-level for current industry technology nodes;
- Moving from 200mm diameter into 300 diameter manufacturing in order to reach the best performance. Additionally, RF-SOI is not available in 300mm diameter on the market today; this gives an opportunity for Europe to take over leadership in substrate manufacturing (starting material and advanced substrates).
The technology developed by REFERENCE will cover three application domains: cellular, automotive and aviation. The research results will progress European position in the next generation connectivity –compatible with 4G+ and 5G standards, it will be applicable in all sorts of devices. It will also contribute to next-generation, fully automated vehicles equipped with high connectivity, and improve connectivity with the in-flight and ground environments. The program aims to prove the feasibility of low latency, secure and reliable wireless aircraft communication.
Most importantly, it paves the way for improved safety and interactivity in all transportation systems.