▲5G total modem solution launched last April5G, also called NR (New Radio), is a wireless communication technology that uses a broader high-frequency band than conventional 4G LTE technology and provides the advantages of ultra low latency and ultra connectivity. Having such a broad frequency band at your disposal is like having a wide open data expressway in front of you, and this means the ability to transmit and receive massive amounts of data delay-free. 5G mobile is at the bleeding edge of technology, and the newly launched RF and SM chips play no small part in making it possible. The ‘Exynos RF(Radio Frequency) 5500’ single-chip ratio frequency transceiver
▲Smaller than the eraser at the tip of your pencil: The Exynos RF 5500The RF chip is a radio frequency transceiver that converts the digital signal from a modem into analog radio frequencies, and also converts analog radio signals into digital signals for a modem. What sets the new ‘Exynos RF 5500’ apart is that it is both a 5G transceiver and the first-ever single-chip solution supporting all mobile communication generations, from 2G all the way to 5G. Meeting two or more technology standards at the same time usually calls for as many individual chips, but the RF 5500 provides multi-standard support through a single semiconductor chip, reducing power consumption while occupying less space in your mobile device. The ‘Exynos SM(Supply Modulator) 5800’ power supply modulator solution. Before an RF transceiver can transmit data to a base station, an amplifying chip needs to amplify the signal. The SM chip modulates power supply. That is, the chip modulates the voltages necessary for signal amplification and improves battery efficiency. The power amplifier (hereinafter PA) is the single most power-hungry signal transmitting component, and the SM chip improves power efficiency at the PA, in turn improving battery efficiency. Voltages are optimized based on information on the distance between a mobile device and a base station, allowing for optimized battery consumption in the device. The new RF and SM chips: from world-first to world-best What sets apart the newly released ‘Exynos RF 5500’ and ‘Exynos SM 5800’ chips? 4G communications are universal in Korea, but worldwide, 4G, 3G and 2G communication technologies are all widely used. And now we have 5G. For devices that can be used both in Korea and around the world, all of these communication standards must be supported. But incorporating two or more chips supporting different standards into a mobile device means poor battery efficiency and potentially a larger device as well. The Exynos RF 5500 is a single-chip solution supporting the existing 2G/3G/4G LTE as well as the new 5G NR communication standard. The Exynos SM 5800 also supports up to 100㎒ bandwidths for high-volume 5G data communications, and improves battery efficiency by up to 30% by optimizing voltage based on the distance between a mobile device and the nearest base station.
▲ Executive Vice President Lee Jong Woo, head of the Samsung Electronics S.LSI Business MSC Design Team, presenting the new RF chip at the ‘IEEE International Solid-State Circuits Conference (ISSCC) 2019’ event held in San Francisco in FebruaryThe Exynos RF 5500 and Exynos SM 5800 both demonstrate Samsung Electronics’ global technology leadership. In recognition of this fact, Samsung Electronics was awarded ‘best paper’ at the 2019 conference of the ISSCC, an event commonly referred to as the ‘semiconductor Olympics.’ The ISSCC is the most prestigious and authoritative academic society in the field of semiconductors. In other words, the technologies behind these new chips were recognized as both having commercial value and having made substantial academic contributions. The innovators of wireless communication technology
▲ The MSC Design Team presents papers at the ISSCC conference every year. The team are prolific innovators, holding as many certificates as the team has members.The MSC (Mixed Signal Circuit) Design Team who developed the new 5G total modem solution are working not only on RF transceivers and SM chips but also SOC/analog and other analog-digital hybrid designs. But even for this seasoned bunch, the process of designing the new RF and SM chips was something to remember. 5G being an entirely new technology standard, addressing contingencies and problems arising during development was particularly challenging. We sat down with the actual front-line developers for their reflections on the process.
▲Kang Sang Hoon of the MSC Design Team at the Samsung Electronics S.LSI BusinessKang Sang Hoon: It’s always the most difficult moments that stay with you, not all the smooth sailing ones in between. The design process involved frequencies never used before, making development unpredictable. It also changed the way we went about the design. At times we would be just a few steps from completing the design when test results would come back unacceptable. We believed firmly in getting it right the first time, even if it meant taking the long way around. We went back to the drawing board, and in the end were able to create a flawless product. It’s all the setbacks that make the end result so much more meaningful.
▲Nomiyama of the MSC Design Team at the Samsung Electronics S.LSI BusinessNomiyama: Usually, new IC designs are based on existing circuits. But 5G circuit design was something else, as we had to start with literally nothing. Working with the new standard, problems that lay hidden in the design phase would appear in implementation. But we set ourselves to the task and all these problems were ultimately sorted out. The MSC Design Team has opened the first of many doors to the upcoming 5G era. Naturally, they had a lot to say about the process. We asked them to share their future 5G aspirations with us.
▲ Senior VP and Samsung Electronics S.LSI Business MSC Design Team Leader Lee Jong WooMSC Design Team Leader Senior VP Lee Jong Woo: It’s rather pleasing that we’ve taken an important first step ahead of the competition as they age of 5G begins. Our team worked as a single-minded unit to make these achievements possible, and for that I’m thankful and proud. Building on our latest success, we will soon be coming out with even better products.
▲ Kang Sang Hoon and Baik Sang Hyeon of the MSC Design Team at the Samsung Electronics S.LSI BusinessKang Sang Hoon: It’s another pioneering, world-first Samsung chipset for the next generation of state-of-the-art 5G mobile devices. As an engineer you feel proud, and motivated to do even greater things. Here’s to even more world-first and world-best products. Baik Sang Hyeon: What he just said about being world-best. And also, I’d like to see us develop products where our originality shines through. By doing so we could further cement our industry leadership.
▲The MSC Design Team at the Samsung Electronics DS Division S.LSI BusinessAs 5G enters the mainstream, even higher frequency bands will made available for mobile communications. Working with a broader range of frequency bands, RF and SM technology will only grow in importance. And we’re up for the challenge. At Samsung Electronics’ DV Division, we consistently develop world-best, world-first technologies to make life faster and more convenient.