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Intel rolls out MEMS modules for cellphones

Posted: 26 Apr 2004 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:intel? microelectromechanical systems product? rf front-end module? digital cmos technology? mems?

Intel Corp. is offering to a select handful of customers its first microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) product, a semi-custom cellphone RF front-end module. The effort is a small part of Intel's larger goal of moving as much of the cellphone silicon chain to digital CMOS technology.

"Intel has been working on MEMS technology for as long as four years but we didn't have an application for it. About six months ago we decided we could fabricate these front-end modules," said Sam Arditi, GM of Intel's cellular and handheld group.

The modules integrate about 40 passives, reducing space requirements by as much as two-thirds. Customers can design their own module architecture based on an Intel library of resistor, capacitor and filter component designs.

Intel has taped out for customers its first modules. Future modules will include low-end switches. The company is still researching whether it will be able to include high-end transmit/receive switches and SAW filters.

"We saw this as a low risk product that could easily justify itself and we are starting to offer it to key customers," said Arditi who spoke at the Wireless Ventures conference. "We haven't announced this yet because we don't yet see it as a broad offering such as our Bulverde applications processor for which we already have tens of customers," he added.

The MEMS devices are being made at Intel's eight-inch Fab 8 in Israel based on an older 0.35- or 0.25-process technology. Intel walled off half the fab so it can use gold as a high-Q material in the process.

Separately Intel's research group is studying how it can move more RF processing into the digital CMOS domain.

In a keynote speech in the U.S., Arditi described plans for Hermon, Intel's next-generation integrated cellular processor. That chip will integrate the Bulverde application processor as well as a baseband processor and flash.

The Hermon chip will bring Pentium-class performance to cellphones and could help reduce component count which today hovers at about 200 parts in phones with 286-class performance, said Arditi.

- Rick Merritt

EE Times

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