Interview with Paul Hart from NXP Semiconductors

  • Paul Hart - Executive Vice President & General Manager, Radio Power, NXP Semiconductors

everything RF recently interviewed Paul Hart, the Executive Vice President and General Manager, Radio Power at NXP Semiconductors to learn more about NXP’s newly opened GaN Fab.

Q. What made NXP decide to open a Gallium Nitride (GaN) Fab for 5G RF power transistors in the United States?

Paul Hart: With the 5G infrastructure market growing rapidly, NXP wanted to add its own GaN Fab production to keep pace with growing demand and to also take advantage of the additional technology capabilities available at 150 mm (6-inch). NXP has built this GaN Fab from scratch which helped us link our technology to what our customers need in their products.

Q. When will the fab open? How long will it take NXP to ramp up production to full capacity? How many people will this Fab employ?

Paul Hart: NXP’s new GaN Fab is open for production now. It has passed all of the quality certifications. Initial products are ramping up now. We are expecting to reach full capacity by the end of 2020. NXP employs over 1,500 highly skilled workers in Chandler, Arizona. The staffing for the GaN factory specifically is about 100 employees.

Q. What made you pick Arizona as a location for the Fab?

Paul Hart: NXP wanted to follow our talent! When we looked across all our sites to see where there was expertise in compound semiconductor manufacturing, that team and skillset existed in Chandler, Arizona. As part of our Motorola heritage, we had a Gallium Arsenide factory that was the largest in the world. Many of the process engineers that ran that facility were still in the Chandler area working in our silicon fab.

Q. Can you tell us more about the GaN process that will be used to develop transistors in this fab?

Paul Hart: NXP’s new GaN Fab operates with 150 mm (6-inch) wafer size. We’re producing GaN on Silicon-carbide PHEMT transistors, which enables the highest levels of power, efficiency and thermal performance for RF applications. The first products being released utilize 0.4um gate lengths, but the factory supports production down to 0.1um gate length for higher frequency applications.

Q. What is your view on LDMOS vs GaN Technology for Sub-6 GHz 5G applications? What are the advantages of GaN over LDMOS for 5G applications?

Paul Hart: 5G applications span the full range of available cellular frequencies, from 600 MHz wide area coverage solutions up to 47 GHz mmW ultra-high capacity applications. In the sub-6 GHz 5G space, GaN is seeing widespread adoption in the new mid-band frequencies of 2.6 and 3.5 GHz. While LDMOS remains a preferred choice in many of the more traditional frequency bands like 900 MHz & 1.8 GHz. As frequency goes up, the efficiency advantages of GaN over LDMOS increase.

Q. Will this fab focus on developing GaN power transistors specifically for the US market?

Paul Hart: NXP’s new GaN Fab plans to develop GaN power transistors to equip the global 5G market, which includes the U.S. We are also focused on a portfolio of various RF frequencies and power requirements that can be utilized in many different regions across the world.

Q. Can you tell us more about NXP's experience with GaN Technology? When did you start working on GaN? What are some GaN related milestones for NXP?

Paul Hart: NXP has a long history with GaN technology. We have been developing GaN for communication systems for nearly 20 years. Some of our milestones from recent to historical include:

  • NXP’s GaN technology keeps improving its gain and efficiency
  • As 5G became an imminent reality, we have developed our technology for 5G mMIMO and other high frequency applications
  • We developed and qualified GaN technology with improved memory effects for best-in-class digital pre-distortion performance
  • GaN technology was developed for 50 V operation with improved gain and efficiency

About Paul Hart

Paul Hart is the Executive Vice President and General Manager of Radio Power for NXP Semiconductors. In this role, Paul is responsible for maximizing NXP’s leadership position in 5G and identifying new market opportunities to drive growth with best-in-class technologies, product offerings and system solutions spanning the entire range of 5G frequencies and power.

Paul joined Motorola Semiconductor as a radio frequency (RF) engineer in 2001, transferring to Freescale in 2006 and to NXP in 2015. He has more than 19 years of semiconductor industry experience specializing in the development, launch and life cycle management of cutting-edge RF solutions. Prior to his current role, Paul managed the radio frequency business at NXP. Before that, he led NXP’s RF applications engineering teams and the engineering efforts that sharpened the company’s focus on next-generation power amplifier (PA) architectures, radio algorithms and radio system integration and RF PA customer reference designs. He also has been responsible for the development and new product introduction of the digital front-end product family.