SMT007 Magazine

SMT-July2016

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80 SMT Magazine • July 2016 by Matej Krajnc NATIONAL INSTRUMENTS Australia's first mobile phone call was made in a car on 9 August, 1981. It took a decade to reach the market, and it was sold for AUD $5,200. Then, it supported a single band, and it weighed and felt like a brick, for which it was fa- mously named. Fast forward three decades: The mobile phone industry has undergone multiple disruptions caused by game-changing technolo- gies, including the development of 4G network. The form and functionality of a mobile phone have also improved. The app ecosystems have grown, network speeds increased, and prices dipped. However, the disruptions have also intro- duced new challenges for suppliers of RF com- ponents to surmount. According to a recent Databeans analyst forecast, the cost of radio frequency integrated circuits (RFICs) for mobile devices has dropped by more than 40% since 2007. This is despite the rise of device complex- ity. Ten years ago, a single-function GSM power amplifier was the norm. Today, many RFICs are significantly more complex. They support mul- tiple radio standards and multiple bands with more advanced technologies such as dynamic power supplies, MIPI digital interfaces, and more. To maintain profitable margins against low- er retail prices, companies were in the past com- pelled to think of innovative ways to reduce the cost of semiconductor design and test. This eventually led to RFIC suppliers switching their focus on decreasing the cost of manufactur- ing test. Over the past decade, this intense fo- cus has produced a significant shift from using turnkey ATE solutions to building in-house and cost-optimized testers based on off-the-shelf instrumentation. This shift to a custom tester approach has been a large factor in the success of modular instrumentation platforms like PXI in manufacturing particularly because modular instruments have shown excellent value per performance. FEATURE

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