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Qualcomm UltraSAW Targets FBAR

April 7, 2020

Author: Linley Gwennap

For high-band LTE filters, Broadcom has ruled the roost for years with its unique FBAR technology, which competitors have been unable to replicate or match. Qualcomm is the latest company to try, introducing a new RF-filter technology called UltraSAW. This technology delivers a better quality (Q) factor and insertion loss than traditional SAW filters and is competitive with leading BAW filters such as FBAR. Initial UltraSAW filters recently entered production and should appear in phones in the third quarter.

The new products build on filter technology Qualcomm acquired from TDK in a multistage transaction; the company bought out TDK’s share of the joint venture last year and now has full ownership of the RF business. The acquired products included standard SAW filters, which are popular for LTE frequencies below 2GHz, and temperature-controlled-SAW (TC-SAW) filters that reduce frequency drift but remain uncompetitive with FBAR at higher frequencies. UltraSAW combines features of these other technologies to finally offer strong performance above 2GHz.

Qualcomm provides a broad line of highly integrated RF modules for LTE, including PA modules (PAMIDs), diversity modules (DRx), and complete RF front-end modules (FEMIDs). It will eventually sell UltraSAW in all of these forms, but the initial products are discrete filters. Although these offerings will cover the full range of LTE bands from 600MHz to 2,700MHz, we expect customers will typically use them for the higher bands where traditional SAW filters don’t perform well.

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