NXP Pushes 5G with New Arizona Fab Specializing in GaN Power Amplifiers

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NXP recently opened its newest factory, a 150 mm (6 in) RF gallium nitride (GaN) facility in Chandler, Arizona, which it describes as “the most advanced 5G RF power amplifier factory in the United States”.

TSMC claims its new Arizona factory is the most advanced GaN power amplifier factory in the United States. Image courtesy of NXP

The new factory combines NXP’s nearly two decades of expertise in GaN development and RF power with its high-volume manufacturing capabilities. This will support the expansion of 5G base stations and advanced infrastructure in markets such as industrial, defense, and aerospace.

GaN’s role in 5G: the new gold standard?

5G has massively increased the density of RF solutions required per antenna. At the same time, however, it is necessary to both maintain the same box size and reduce power consumption. This is a challenge for manufacturers, since lower power consumption usually means more space is required for power components.

Challenges such as these race innovations and these conflicting requirements have led gallium nitride (GaN) power transistors to emerge as the new “gold standard” to address, the NXP announcement said.

New Arizona GaN factory opens with Governor Doug Ducey and other federal, state and local officials. Image courtesy of NXP

GaN is a large band gap semiconductor. This means that chips based on it can process much smaller voltages in a smaller space than silicon, which is itself used in the LDMOS technology currently found in the core of radio amplifiers in today’s 4G networks. It also offers a higher power density and thus brings enormous leaps in performance in terms of lower power consumption and higher efficiency.

With the opening of its new GaN factory, NXP hopes to strengthen its offering of advanced GaN RF chips as the 5G rollout continues worldwide.

Arizona: an “innovation center” for chip development

The factory will serve as what NXP calls the “Innovation Center” to facilitate collaboration between the factory and NXP’s on-site research and development team. This will result in faster production cycles for NXP GaN devices. The on-site engineers have everything they need to develop and validate current and future GaN devices faster.

Arizona also appears to be a hotbed for silicon development. Earlier this year, TSMC announced plans to build a $ 12 billion factory in Arizona to respond to US government calls for more domestic chip factories.

5G company developments in progress

NXP’s announcement is the latest in a long line of global 5G developments.

Most recently, the Finnish multinational telecommunications giant Nokia signed a contract in the UK to become the largest equipment provider for BT Group plc, the UK’s largest provider of fixed, broadband and mobile services. Under this agreement, Nokia will replace Huawei on BT’s existing 2G and 4G networks and will play a pivotal role in the ongoing 5G rollout in the UK.

The deal will make Nokia the UK’s largest 5G operator. Image courtesy of the BBC

With the global rollout of 5G and the banning of Huawei from the cellular networks of several Western nations (as well as Japan and Taiwan), it is an exciting time for telecommunications companies and semiconductor manufacturers to advance system-level development.

NXP’s new factory is expected to reach full capacity by the end of 2020.

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