NXP’s GaN 5G Multi-Chip Modules Hold Promise for Energy-Efficient Mobile Networks Applications

July 14, 2021 by Alessandro Mascellino

NXP Semiconductors has integrated Gallium Nitride (GaN) technology into its 5G multi-chip module platform.

The group is reportedly the first one worldwide to announce radio frequency (RF) solutions focusing on 5G and featuring multiple-input and multiple-output (MIMO) capabilities, while also combining the efficiency of GaN with the compactness of multi-chip modules.

NXP’s new 5G multi-chip modules will sample in the third quarter of 2021 and will be compatible with the company’s RapidRF series of RF front-end board designs.


A concept image showcasing the new 5G technology at work. Image used courtesy of NXP


Leading Efforts in 5G Development

NXP’s efforts in 5G development have been consistent in the past few years.

The company’s 5G Access Edge technologies are based on the Open Radio Access Network (O-RAN) architecture, a concept based on interoperability and standardization of RAN elements.

These include a unified interconnection standard for white-box hardware, as well as open-source software elements from different vendors.

Thanks to the adoption of this approach, NXP enables designers to deploy tailored 5G solutions faster while giving them an easier and more cost-effective way to maintain and upgrade their 5G capabilities.


RapidRF Front-end Design. Image used courtesy of NXP


Critical infrastructure equipment provided by NXP includes 5G Macrocell and massive MIMO, integrated 5G small cells, together with 5G customer premise equipment (CPE), gateways, and mesh. Also, enterprise and industrial 5Gl, as well as rural and agriculture 5G.


GaN in 5G Applications

With the introduction of the GaN technology into its 5G multi-chip module platform, NXP is effectively pushing the boundaries of 5G applications further, reportedly increasing lineup efficiency to 52% at 2.6 GHz.

The figures represent an eight percent increase when compared to NXP’s previous model generation, but the new chips do not only improve efficiency rates.

In fact, thanks to a proprietary combination of LDMOS (laterally-diffused metal-oxide-semiconductor) and GaN in a single device, the devices also offer improved performance, delivering 400 MHz of instantaneous bandwidth, and enabling the design of wideband radios with a single power amplifier.

In other words, thanks to the new technology, mobile network operators will now be able to lower the cost of deploying 5G on cellular towers and rooftops.


NXP’s New 5G Multi-chip Modules 

From a technical standpoint, the new modules feature a multi-stage transmit chain, 50-ohm in/out matching networks, and a Doherty combiner.

NXP is now also adding bias control using its latest SiGe (silicon-germanium) technology, thus removing the need for a separate analog control IC and providing improved monitoring and optimization of power amplifier performance.

“NXP has developed a unique technology toolbox dedicated to 5G infrastructure that includes proprietary LDMOS, GaN, and SiGe, as well as advanced packaging and RF design IP,” explained Paul Hart, executive vice president at NXP. 

“This enables us to leverage the benefits of each element and combine them in the most optimal way for each use case,” he added.

Just like the previous generation modules, the new components are also pin-to-pin compatible. This not only enables RF engineers to scale up single power amplifier design across multiple frequency bands and power levels but also reduces design cycle time and accelerates the global roll-out of 5G solutions.

For more information about NXP’s upcoming 5G multi-chip modules, you can head over to the company’s website following this link here.