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California Eastern Laboratories

APPLICATION NOTE AN1032 The New CATV Amplifiers: Improved Reliability, GaAs Technology and More!
Introduction At every turn there is another service being offered through the technology of television. Initially, there were the expanded channel options, but now there is a virtual explosion of internet access, home shopping, telephone services, interactive games and the promise of an even better tomorrow. All of these services cannot be implemented using the plant architecture that exists today. With many companies in the process of upgrading CATV systems, GaAs technology has a lot to offer. The benefits are three fold: distortion performance, reliability and bandwidth. While the bandwidth of a Si bipolar transistor is being stretched to cover the 750 MHz band, the upper frequency range of a GaAs MMIC is limited primarily by the characteristics of the transformers. With the demand for bandwidth on the increase, GaAs is the logical step to service the anticipated requirements for the next generation of plant expansion. Next Generation Components While MMIC CATV industry endeavors to enter markets that are more demanding, at the same time it faces increasing competition from sectors that haven't historically been in their market. In order to compete, all aspects of the system must be made as efficient and reliable as possible. In large volume production, there is significant pressure to minimize the cost of assembly while providing superior, repeatable performance. With respect to the hybrid, the primary method of achieving this goal is to automate the entire assembly process and reduce the component count. This necessitates that the active devices and the transformers be redesigned to be compatible with existing automated assembly equipment. Transformers A significant technical challenge occurred with the development of the surface mountable transformer. Not only did the new device need to be in a surface mount style package, but it did not require any tuning after assembly. Many different approaches were tried including thin film flexible substrates and alumina substrates. Neither of these designs had adequate electrical performance. The final design was an auto-transformer configuration using a double ferrite core. This configuration offered a small size, (6.2 mm x 6.2 mm x 3.9 mm high), that could be mounted along with other surface mount components. An outline drawing of the transformer is shown in Figure 1. 6.2 mm

6.2 mm 3.9 mm Figure 1. Surface Mount Transformer. The insertion loss of these transformers is less than 2.5 dB from 10 MHz and is 3 dB at 860 MHz. The return loss is better than 19 dB across the band. Also, the worst case phase balance is 3 for the input transformer and 6 for the output transformer. GaAs MMIC In contrast to traditional hybrid amplifiers (multiple transistors individually attached and wire bonded to the substrate), new amplifier hybrids only have one active device each which incorporates all the transistors. The MMIC is fabricated using a standard NEC GaAs process with a gate length of l mm, breakdown voltage (BVgd) of 18 V and a maximum current density of 310 mA/mm. The CATV incorporates 6 devices in a push-pull configuration, as well as, biasing resistors. It is important to note that two of these resistors are used to set the bias of the output stages and dissipate large amounts of DC power. Utilizing the GaAs for the high dissipation resistors eliminates the need for high power resistors on the substrate, which are large and expensive. A simplified schematic for the MMIC is shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2. Schematic of CTAV MMIC.

The other major design effort focused on making the active devices compatible with surface mount equipment. This involved the design of both a GaAs MMIC and a carrier for the new MMIC. The most critical issues for the carrier heated dissipation, auto insertion and low cost. A plastic package was not feasible due to the heat dissipation of the MMIC, and a ceramic type package which was too expensive. A simple leadframe with potting material placed over the active device was the optimum solution. This is similar to the package style used in the manufacture of cellular phone power amplifiers. Assembly With changes to the transformers, and the active device, the substrate assembly is fully automated. A photograph of a typical amplifier is shown in Figure 3. The MMIC can be seen in the middle of the substrate, with a transformer at each end. The remaining components are used to provide feedback and biasing for the FETs. The developments detailed so far have been applied to both the Power Doubler and the Push-Pull amplifiers. In fact, the photograph shown in Figure 3 could easily be of either the Push-Pull or the Power Doubler amplifier as the primary difference is only in the GaAs MMIC used. Electrical Performance Each of the major electrical parameters are described in the following sections. Gain One advantage of using a GaAs device is that there is plenty of gain available, even at 860 MHz. The MC-7866 is a 22 dB gain Power Doubler that offers distortion available at the typical 18 dB gain device. The age-old trade-off between optimum gain and distortion performance has changed and the IC system designs can now be realized. Noise Figure Another benefit of the GaAs devices is the low noise figure that is achievable over a broad bandwidth. A characteristic of the Si CATV hybrid amplifiers is that the noise figure increases with frequency. This is due to the fact that the minimum noise figure for a Si bipolar transistor is quadratically related to frequency, while the minimum noise figure for a GaAs MESFET is linearly related to frequency. Consequently, it is not surprising to find that the GaAs device has superior noise performance at the higher frequencies. Both the Push-Pull and Power Doubler amplifiers have typical noise figures of 6 dB over the 50860 MHz frequency range. Distortion The most critical measure of the electrical performance is distortion. It is the primary specification upon which the system performance is judged. The distortion performance of both the Power Doubler and the Push-Pull is clearly superior to Silicon over the entire band. A summary of measured CTB, CSO and XMOD are shown in Table 1.

Figure 3. Photograph of Substrate.




PUSH-PULL (MC-7852/MC-7856) -59/-60

POWER DOUBLER (MC-7862/MC-7866) -65/-66



Composite Triple Beat Composite 2nd Order Cross Modulation

VO = 44 dBmV 110 Channels VO = 44 dBmV 110 Channels VO = 44 dBmV 110 Channels










(data is at 25C, 50-750 MHz)

Table 1. Distortion Performance of Push-Pull and Power Doubler Amplifier

Conventionally, the primary method of canceling second order products is to use a push-pull circuit topology. This design is no different. However, since all the active devices are included on a single MMIC, not only are the phase and amplitude characteristics of the amplifiers very similar and repeatable, but the interconnect parasitics are minimized. This results in a greatly improved cancellation of the second and third order products generated by the amplifier. Power Consumption Gallium Arsenide is generally more power efficient than Silicon, especially in applications that require low distortion. Consequently, there has been an improvement in the power consumption of the Power Doubler unit. Using a novel biasing scheme, the current required is only 344 mA typical. This represents approximately a 20% reduction in power consumption of the amplifier over existing units. This savings has the several benefits including less heat generated, which in turn increases reliability, as well as continued savings over the operating life of the amplifier. Repeatability Another benefit to the development of a GaAS MMIC and surface mount components is the improved reliability and consistency in the CATV hybrid module. Other designs that use discrete transistors and wire wrapped toroidal cores require tuning to compensate for variations in each of the individual components. An advantage to using a MMIC is the uniformity in performance of individual elements on the MMIC. Consequently, each of the GaAS transistors will have the same electrical characteristics. Also, the transformers are self-contained, pre-screened units that do not have any tuning sections. This results in amplifiers that emerge from the assembly line with similar performance, thereby eliminating the need to tune each unit. Quality performance is endured by constant lot testing of a percentage of the production units based on the distribution of performance measured. This reduces the overall time needed to test the amplifiers, and the number of test stations. It also increases the production capacity for these devices. Capital equipment for CATV testing is expensive and these savings contribute to the reduction of the overall cost of the amplifier. Very encouraging results have been obtained by using these assembly and testing techniques. Reliability The requirement for much higher system reliability is one of the critical aspects of the new type of buildout. This necessitates an increase in the reliability of all components, including the hybrid. As part of the development of these new GaAs amplifiers, many tests were conducted to ensure a high level of reliability. The hybrid amplifiers have a FIT<125 at a case temperature of 100C. It can withstand over 1000 V of static charge, over 80 V surge to either the input or output pin, and over 40 V surge to the bias pin. Combined with the automated assembly processes, these devices will provide a stable link in the flow of information. Conclusion Two new types of amplifiers have been developed that can be used in CATV systems. Historically, the hybrid amplifier was considered by many to be a weak link, but presently this has changed. A new hybrid is now available that offers superior performance, and the additional benefit of a long tradition of reliable performance and manufacturing. Designed by engineers at NEC and CEL, this new series of amplifiers have 860 MHz bandwidth. They offer improved distortion performance, and have the same high reliability proven in millions of medium power amplifiers used in consumer electronics.

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'1997 California Eastern Laboratories Printed in USA 10/19/2000