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Communications Infrastructure

MIMO and GaN on SiC Enable the 5G Vision

Apr 06, 2020
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5G technology promises faster data speed, higher network bandwidth, and much lower latency. However, with those promises come challenging requirements. 5G radios require higher efficiency, better spectrum utilization, higher connection density, and the ability to operate at new, higher frequencies while keeping cost reasonable. Additionally, components require higher power density, while systems require compact size due to radio requirements.

MIMO and GaN on SiC: The Backbone of 5G

MIMO (Multiple-Input Multiple-Output) refers to the technique of receiving and sending multiple data signals on a single channel using multipath propagation. Massive MIMO arrays are critical to supporting the necessary bandwidth over an increasing density of small cells and base stations that 5G demands — essentially serving as the backbone for 5G. However, MIMO technology needs semiconducting materials that can handle high power density, high frequencies, and harsh environments for MIMO to fully reach its potential.

The Wide-Ranging Problems Posed by 5G (and its Emerging Solutions)

GaN on SiC is also the key to 5G small-cell antennas composed of massive MIMO arrays necessary for 5G’s success. GaN on SiC supports the low-latency and faster switching speeds required by MIMO to achieve highly efficient spatial multiplexing. Because GaN on SiC has excellent thermal characteristics and supports much higher levels of power per device, a 32x MIMO array is feasible rather than a 64x — and with the same performance.

Additionally, 5G small-cell antennas will be used in some rough outdoor environments: the side of a building, on a utility pole, or on a streetlight, for example. The semiconductor electronics within the MIMO antennas are necessary for 5G technology to handle exposure to high humidity, dust, extreme heat, and other factors. GaN on SiC, however, can handle everything thrown at it. In fact, it is already being used for intense, harsh outdoor applications such as weather radar, surveillance, and even improvised IED detection systems.

But 5G small-cell antennas can experience other issues. The electronics used in 5G applications must be able to handle power fluctuations and extreme temperature variations with a minimal impact on performance. This is another area where GaN in SiC excels. In fact, it is known for its reliability. GaN is also more efficient at higher frequencies used by 5G when compared to other commonly used materials such as LDMOS (laterally-diffused metal-oxide semiconductor).

Wolfspeed Sits on the Cutting Edge of 5G

MIMO combined with GaN on SiC is an enabler of the 5G vision, serving as an excellent solution to the many complications that arise with 5G technology. MIMO small-cell arrays combined with GaN on SiC as the semiconductor result in rugged, power-dense, reliable, efficient, and fast systems — just what 5G technology demands. And Wolfspeed is on the cutting edge of GaN on SiC semiconductor devices.

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