Imec demonstrates a low-power 7-Gbps 60-GHz transceiver for the wireless consumer applications

May 03, 2012 //By Paul Buckley
Imec has collaborated with Panasonic to develop a prototype of a 60 GHz radio transceiver allowing to reach data rates of 7 Gbps over short distances at low power consumption.

The chip achieves this performance over the four channels specified by the IEEE802.11ad standard. Imec’s low-power 60 GHz solution is an important step towards adoption of 60 GHz technology in low-cost battery-operated consumer products such as smart phones and tablets.

Today’s wireless consumer electronic products increasingly include data-intensive applications, while applications below 10GHz such as WLAN face spectrum scarcity. This drives wireless system designers to explore higher frequency bands such as the unlicensed band around 60 GHz. This band is available throughout the world and enables multi-Gbps wireless communication over short distances. However, to enable 60 GHz radio solutions for portable mass-market products, cost, area and power consumption need to drastically decrease. Imec’s ultra-low power CMOS-based solution is an important step to solve these challenges.

Imec’s transceiver front-end prototype IC (integrated circuit) achieves an EVM (error vector management) better than -17 dB for QAM16 modulation in the four channels specified by the IEEE802.11ad standard, reaching data rates of 7Gbps over short distances. The IC is implemented in 40 nm LP (low-power) digital CMOS targeting low-cost volume production. The TX (transmitter) signal path, consisting of a power amplifier (PA) and a mixer, consumes only 90 mW with 10.2 dBm OP1dB. The RX (receiver) signal path, consisting of a low noise amplifier (LNA) and a mixer, consumes only 35 mW with a noise frequency (NF) of 5.5 dB and 30 dB gain. ESD (electrostatic discharge) robustness is more than 4 kV HBM (human body model).

The compact core area of only 0.7 mm2 makes this transceiver front-end solution particularly suitable for use in phased arrays. The area is kept low thanks to the use of lumped components even at 60 GHz, and very compact mm-wave CMOS layout techniques. Continuous research done at imec on power efficient CMOS PAs enables further important reductions in the power consumption of the transmitter section. The front-end is now further being integrated into a beamforming transceiver prototype.