MEMS timing technology enables 5G equipment to be deployed anywhere

Solves critical timing challenges for 5G infrastructure, SiTime announces the Emerald Platform, precision timing that is claimed to reduce design complexity and speed time to revenue.

The Emerald Platform allows operators to deploy 5G equipment in harsh environments and reliably offer mission-critical services, says SiTime.

The company has identified that timing is potentially the single biggest point of failure in 5G systems. It believes it requires a new approach beyond traditional, component-level methods. SiTime says that, with Emerald, it is pioneering a systems approach to help customers achieve the highest level of performance and capability. It combines SiTime’s MEMS with programmable analogue, innovative packaging and high-performance algorithms, resulting in “a solution that is up to 20 times better than what is currently available,” according to CEO, Rajesh Vashist.

SiTime’s Emerald Platform is believed to be the first MEMS oven controlled oscillator (OCXO) in the industry. OCXOs are critical to the reliable operation of all communications networks, but quartz-based OCXOs are extremely sensitive to environmental stressors such as vibration, temperature changes and shock, which can degrade network performance, reduce uptime, and impact mission-critical services such as advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS).

“As mobile operators move into 5G and edge computing, they will require much tighter time synchronization in the radio equipment, which necessitates the use of OCXOs. . . Now, the computing, core network, and radio will be collapsed into a system that may be deployed in an uncontrolled environment such as a tower, rooftop, or lamppost,” said Joe Madden, principal analyst at Mobile Experts. “In this environment, the OCXO will be exposed to vibration and temperature extremes. This change in deployment architecture requires new thinking and an evaluation of the benefits of MEMS and quartz timing technologies,” he said.

SiTime’s products are always programmable, which ensures 100% availability with short lead times. Its temperature compensation algorithms, in conjunction with MEMS and analogue components, ensure that 5G equipment can be deployed anywhere, in any environment, says the company.

Because of the sensitivity of legacy quartz OCXOs, customers have to take many precautions to ensure reliable operation. A key challenge is the board placement of the OCXO, which needs to be located far away from stressors such as heat and airflow-induced thermal shock. This results in increased routing complexity and potential signal integrity problems. Designers have also tried using specialised plastic OCXO covers for thermal isolation, which introduces additional manufacturing steps and production complexity. Emerald MEMS OCXOs eliminate all of these problems, claims SiTime.

 SiTime’s Emerald Platform MEMS SiT5711 and SiT5712 OCXOs do not have the limitations of legacy quartz OCXOs which are custom built, from the ground up, incurring severe limitations on the availability of features, such as frequencies, output types, operating temperature, and in-system control. Using a programmable analogue architecture, the Emerald OCXO offers any frequency between 1.0 and 220MHz, so the customer can select the optimal frequency for the application. The device also offers two output types, LVCMOS and clipped sine-wave, for optimal board performance.

In the near future, the Emerald OCXO will also offer extended temperature operation (-40 to +95, -40 to +105 degrees C) and an I2C serial interface for in-system programmability.

Samples of the Emerald MEMS OCXO SiT5711/12 are available now for qualified customers. Production quantities will be available in Q2 2019.

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