Smaller chip with bigger bandwidth, thanks to E-Band and SiGe

Dr. Danny Elad
Editor’s note: This article is by Danny Elad, Manager of Analog and Mixed Signal Technologies at IBM Research – Haifa.

Backhaul, bottlenecks, integrated circuits, and high-speed streaming are all concepts that refer to traffic – mobile device data traffic, to be precise.

As the number of smartphones and tablets increases alongside a host of new cloud services, bandwidth traffic is becoming a big problem, causing the data transmission to slow down. With massive amounts of multimedia content and growing demands for 4G and soon 5G streaming, the current infrastructure just isn’t set up to meet the demands. By the end of this year, the number of mobile-connected devices will exceed the number of people on earth.

IBM researchers in Haifa have developed the first low-cost Silicon Germanium (SiGe) complete transceiver chipset solution to support the coming high bandwidth requirements for wireless backhaul data transfer. In other words, these chips can move data over the network faster than today’s infrastructure, and keep up with mobile device growth for years to come. 


Several years ago, when the radio frequencies used to channel data from handheld devices to wireless radio base stations, things started to get overcrowded. At that time, a new range of frequencies, known as E-Band, were defined to support larger bandwidths.   

The goal of E-band for wireless communication was to find a lower cost alternative to optical fiber, but one which did not require large investments in infrastructure, like laying new fiber cable. However, E-Band is based on still-expensive Galium Arsenide (GaAs) technology, and until now there has not been a highly integrated low cost solution that telcos can use for cell to cell communication. 

Silicon - A Single Chip Solution 

IBM’s new SiGe chips could soon replace more expensive off-the-shelf components used today, like GaAs. Silicon offers a lower cost solution that incorporates a high level of integration to support more advanced transceiver functionality. The new chipset offers broadband wireless communications in the 71-76 GHz and 81-86 GHz E-Band millimeter-wave frequency range supporting a high modulation scheme of 64QAM.

E-band is used inside the cellular network and allows improved bandwidth between cells. In this way, our mobile devices, which communicate with those cells, can benefit from  higher speed performance
Tiny E-Band chip shown near an Israeli Shekel
(about the size of a dime)
SiGe offers a single chip platform with the functionality normally provided by several chips, including mixed signal, digital, and analog circuits and is therefore a very competitive solution for mobile service providers to enable ultra-high-speed information streaming.

Wireless networking companies like BridgeWave and GigOptix have already turned to IBM Research to license these E-Band solutions.

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