5G Startup Aims to Beat Intel, Q’comm

Article By : Rick Merritt

Startup Movandi aims to leapfrog Intel and Qualcomm with an efficient RF front-end module for 5G cellular at 28 and 39 GHz.

SAN JOSE, Calif. — A startup launched by a brother-and-sister team from Broadcom will show at MWC Americas a millimeter-wave module for 5G networks. Co-chief executive Maryam Rofougaran talked about the technology and its markets as well as the state of women in technology and techno-politics around her birth country of Iran.

Movandi’s BeamX module is an RF front-end including everything from an antenna array to a baseband interface. It targets 28 and 39 GHz 5G systems including base stations and receivers as well as use in indoor gigabit, fixed-wireless access and satellite networks.

The startup aims to deliver a 4-5 dB better link budget than competing products while consuming 30 percent less transmit power. That could translate to products that double range to 400 meters or line-of-sight data rates of 4-5 Gbits/second.

Movandi will sample 8- and 16-antenna modules for 28 GHz nets before the end of the year and a 39 GHz version early next year. They will be based on RF ICs taped out about three weeks ago. Its first prototype was a 64-antenna array based on chips taped out at the end of last year.

The products target customer-premises gear expected to use 16-32 antennas and base stations that may use up to 256 antennas. The modules link to basebands via IQ analog, digital SDI control and a third unnamed interface.

The original BeamX prototype was a 64-antenna array. (Images: Movandi)

The original BeamX prototype was a 64-antenna array. (Images: Movandi)

By delivering a better signal at lower power, Movandi hopes to leapfrog established giants including Intel and Qualcomm which already have prototypes in carrier trials.

“Right now, no one has good efficiency especially on the transmitter. Because there are so many transmitters you can easily burn 10W…and we’re getting competitive sensitivity,” said Maryam Rofougaran, who co-founded the startup with her brother Reza.

The duo pioneered RF CMOS for Bluetooth in startup Innovent acquired by Broadcom in 2000. There, they spent many years as senior engineering managers expanding into Wi-Fi and cellular chips.

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