After raising $35 million in April 2016, ACCO semiconductor is now coming out of their semi-stealth mode with their CMOS based RF Power Amplifiers. They want to capitalize on the growing opportunity of RF front end chips for cell phones and Internet of Things (IoT) products.
PAs are required for communication in modern cell phones and most IoT-connected products. Till now the Power Amplifier was always developed on SiGe or GaAs and as a result of which always needed to be added to chipsets as a seperate module. In addition to that, the SiGe and GaAs processes are more expensive, resulting in higher costs of the system.
ACCO Semiconductor has been developing a technology to enable PAs to be built using CMOS since 2007. Greg Caltabiano, ACCO’s president and CEO, in a recent interview with EE Times, said - “Our strong belief is the only way you are going to get more functionality and lower cost at the same time is with CMOS integration. That’s what has happened in every other industry where people said it couldn't happen.”
Caltabiano added that computers built in the 1960s and 70s relied on discrete semiconductors rather than integrated CMOS chips. Not that long ago, Wi-Fi chips weren’t done in CMOS, either. And then a few companies came through and figured out how to do it. And once they figured out how to do it and therefore did the integration, they became gigantic companies and wiped out their competition.
Building PAs in CMOS has traditionally been difficult because the devices require very high voltage to operate. CMOS transistors traditionally break down at relatively low voltages. Some companies have attempted to build CMOS PAs by including redundant transistors to mitigate the problem of transistors breaking. However, the multiple transistors exacerbated the problem of distortion in PA signals.
ACCO have a solution for this problem. They have developed a special type of transistor that can carry a lot of voltage and is very linear. Using this transistor, their breakthrough bulk CMOS cellular power amplifier offers highly linear performance and can operate at high power levels without breakdown or signal degradation, which was previously considered impossible. The use of CMOS in the RF front-end will improve functionality, reduced size and lower cost for both smart phones and the IoT devices. Also the CMOS supply chain is mature and stabalized making it easy to scale.
ACCO is a fabless semiconductor company that is empowering today's mobile communications products with advanced, high performance and cost compelling CMOS wireless solutions. With facilities in the Paris, France and in Sunnyvale, California, they have developed and patented a groundbreaking and highly innovative CMOS technology. They are applying this technology to provide highly integrated and cost compelling, high-efficiency CMOS power amplifier products for 2G/EDGE/3G/4G mobile handsets not previously considered possible using CMOS technology.