Wireless Systems Design

RF Power Amplifiers Come From Common Stuff

Most modern RF power amplifiers are built from legacy analog circuits. Typically, such circuits are produced in multi-component modules and in costly, low-volume semiconductor processes like Gallium Arsenide (GaAs). Yet ParkerVision, Inc. recently extended its Direct2Data digital RF transceiver technology to overcome a significant hurdle. It can now produce ultra-efficient, low-cost RF power amplifiers in common silicon semiconductors.

The power amplifiers from ParkerVision enjoy yield and cost advantages because they're monolithic implementations. They can be produced on less costly, high-volume silicon processes. The company will offer two families of power amplifiers in small-form-factor packages.

Both of the families—the vector power amplifiers (VPAs) and digital power amplifiers (DPAs)—reduce transmitter power consumption for many battery-powered wireless products by 50% to 80%. The VPA family completely eliminates the need for traditional RF transmitters. For its part, the DPA family is incorporated into product designs as a drop-in replacement for traditional analog RF power-amplifier modules. Moreover, the DPA amplifiers are a single silicon chip as opposed to a multi-component module like most of today's analog power amplifiers.

VPAs receive digital I/Q baseband signals that would typically be sent from a product's baseband processor to a traditional RF transmitter. The VPAs eliminate that transmitter. In just one step, they convert the digital I/Q signal to an on-channel amplified RF carrier.

The initial DPA product lineup includes models for CDMA2000; GSM/GPRS/EDGE; IMT-2000 W-CDMA for UMTS; Wi-Fi networking equipment; Bluetooth-enabled devices; cordless and VoIP phones; and multi-mode, multi-band products that combine those standards. The company's first offerings will be for applications at RF frequencies up to 3 GHz. They'll be followed later this year with products for RF frequencies up to 6 GHz. Those products will target the IEEE 802.11a standard and the emerging digital-home market.

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