Table of Contents
International Journal of Microwave Science and Technology
Volume 2010, Article ID 380108, 7 pages
Review Article

“RF-SoC”: Integration Trends of On-Chip CMOS Power Amplifier: Benefits of External PA versus Integrated PA for Portable Wireless Communications

Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX 79409, USA

Received 10 October 2009; Accepted 10 January 2010

Academic Editor: Marc J. Franco

Copyright © 2010 D. Y. C. Lie. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


RFIC integration has seen dramatic progress since the early 1990s. For example, Si-based single-chip products for GSM, WLAN, Bluetooth, and DECT applications have become commercially available. However, RF power amplifiers (PAs) and switches tend to remain off-chip in the context of single-chip CMOS/BiCMOS transceiver ICs for handset applications. More recently, several WLAN/Bluetooth vendors have successfully integrated less demanding PAs onto the transceivers. This paper will focus on single-chip RF-system-on-a-chip (i.e., “RF-SoC”) implementations that include a high-power PA. An analysis of all tradeoffs inherent to integrating higher power PAs is provided. The analysis includes the development cost, time-to-market, power efficiency, yield, reliability, and performance issues. Recent design trends on highly integrated CMOS WiFi transceivers in the literature will be briefly reviewed with emphasis on the RF-SoC product design tradeoffs impacted by the choice between integrated versus external PAs.