OMMIC to Develop Uplink Power Amplifier for NextGen SATCOM Technologies

Leading manufacturer of microwave circuits, OMMIC, in partnership with eight other companies, is set to take part in the EU-sponsored QV-LIFT project. The goal of the project is to increase the maturity level of key satellite communication technologies by building a prototype of the next generation of satellites that support the high-speed/low latency permanent service required by the 5G of mobile communications.

Satellite communications (SATCOM) must be supported in all weather conditions. With heavy rain, the signal dumping is more important and additional power is needed. In these conditions, to keep the radio links stable, the power amplifier (PA) should be able to deliver a signal that is an order of magnitude greater (i.e. 10 additional dB) compared to sunny weather. The main idea of the QV-LIFT project is to be able to reach a smart gateway via the Internet through a link established in a place with sunny weather. This would reduce the specification of the PA’s output power, removing the need for the pricy 10 dB margin, necessary for the non-intelligent gateway.

The current generation of satellite communications use the Ka-band for the uplink (operating at 30 GHz) and K-band (operating at 20 GHz) for the downlink. The need for extra connectivity results in additional bandwidth requirements. This has led the frequency regulators to allocate additional bands for new generations of satellite. It has been stated that the next generation shall use the V-band for the uplink (50 GHz) and the Q-band (40 GHz) for the downlink.

In the frame of the project, OMMIC has to design and manufacture a prototype for the uplink PA. As a consequence of the smart feature, the QV-LIFT uplink requires a 10 W output power at 50 GHz (without the smart feature, the link would require an RF power of 100 W for rainy conditions, but will be used 90% of the time at 10 W). This power level is unreachable using former GaAs MMIC’s solutions, but can be reached using a small gate length RF GaN process. The specification given to OMMIC was to develop in a 3 W MMIC so a 10 W SSPA could be manufactured by the other partners combining 4 dies.

The rest of the solution is being developed and a demo shall be taking place soon. The project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program.

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