IMEC SCALDIO Wideband SDR Transceiver Offers Full Reconfigurability

IMEC’s wideband software-defined radio (SDR) transceiver, named SCALDIO, is widely programmable to operate with all current and future cellular, WLAN, WPAN, broadcast and positioning standards in the frequency range between the 174MHz and 6GHz.

The unique architecture of the multi-mode SDR transceiver has a power consumption and CMOS chip area comparable to current state-of-the-art single mode radios thereby fitting the performance, power and cost requirements for integration into next-generation mass volume mobile devices.

Today, state-of-the-art multi-mode terminals have a limited flexibility of two or three standard modes and suffer from increased power consumption and bill-of-material cost due to lack of reuse of building blocks. IMEC realized the world’s first functional silicon of a true SDR transceiver IC which can be widely programmed to operate with all present and future standards in the frequency range between the 174MHz and 6GHz.

The SDR front-end is highly integrated to save cost and area. The reconfigurable radio front-end IC in 130nm technology uses only 1.2V supply voltage and has an active area of 7.7mm2. Depending on its configuration the SDR front-end has a power consumption ranging from 60 to 120mA which is comparable to a single-mode radio.

At today’s International Solid State Circuit Conference, IMEC has presented the technical details of its first SCALDIO prototype chip featuring dual band operation in receive and wideband in transmit mode. Since the paper submission to ISSCC, IMEC has developed and measured a second generation prototype now covering full 174MHz to 6GHz wideband operation both in receive and transmit mode, and also including an ultra-flexible transmit section. Hereby, SCALDIO is applicable for products supporting multiple wireless standards such as broadcasting (DAB/DVB), cellular, WLAN etc. and has unique features for upcoming cost-efficient, flexible and feature-rich multi-mode terminals.

The SDR transceiver front-end includes a fully reconfigurable direct-conversion receiver, transmitter and two synthesizers. The direct-conversion scheme is used to allow reconfiguration from 174MHz to 6GHz. The performance of each block can be digitally adjusted over a wide range of specifications through a novel type of analog network-on-chip. Using these different configuration “knobs”, the overall front-end performance (RF carrier frequency, channel bandwidth, noise figure, linearity, filter characteristic, etc.) and power can be tuned to the specific requirements of the different standards to be covered.

Moreover, there is an equally important perspective of energy optimization. Using the same reconfiguration knobs, the front-end can significantly reduce its power consumption by exploiting real-time power/performance trade-off opportunities when allowed by the conditions of the environment, e.g. by reducing the filtering level when the interferer level is lower than the worst case defined by the standard.

New mixed-signal control, calibration and compensation techniques are used to relax the specifications in the analog domain and hence to lower cost and lower risk of analog circuit design.

IMEC has fully measured and verified the SCALDIO radio. Several patents have been filed for circuit-level breakthroughs. The technology is now ready for transfer to the industry for use in upcoming mobile solutions.

About IMEC
IMEC is a world-leading independent research center in nanoelectronics and nanotechnology. Its research focuses on the next generations of chips and systems, and on the enabling technologies for ambient intelligence. IMEC’s research bridges the gap between fundamental research at universities and technology development in industry. Its unique balance of processing and system know-how, intellectual property portfolio, state-of-the-art infrastructure and its strong network of companies, universities and research institutes worldwide position IMEC as a key partner for shaping technologies for future systems.

As an expansion of its wireless autonomous microsystems research, IMEC has created a legal entity in the Netherlands. Stichting IMEC Nederland runs activities at the Holst Centre, an independent R&D institute that develops generic technologies and technology platforms for autonomous wireless transducer solutions and systems-in-foil.

IMEC is headquartered in Leuven, Belgium, and has representatives in the US, China and Japan. IMEC is headquartered in Leuven, Belgium, and has representatives in the US, China and Japan. Its staff of more than 1500 people includes more than 500 industrial residents and guest researchers. In 2006, its estimated revenue (P&L) was EUR 231 million.