Semiconductor company Qorvo has agreed to acquire radio frequency micro-electro-mechanical system (RF MEMS) company Cavendish Kinetics, saying that the purchase will add to its capabilities in antenna tuning and improving 4G and 5G system performance.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Qorvo is a strategic corporate investor in Cavendish Kinetics, along with Qualcomm; CK also had venture backing from Tallwood Venture Capital and Wellington Partners. The company’s funding included $7 million raised in 2014, $36 million in funding in 2015 and another $15 million in 2018.
RF MEMS devices, as the company has described it, are used to “tune both main and diversity smartphone antennas across low, mid and high bands, resulting in stronger signals and faster data rates” and offer “great potential for improving 4G and 5G system performance.” Cavendish’s products have been used in Samsung products and other LTE and 5G devices.
Qorvo said that the CK team will keep developing RF MEMS technology across Qorvo’s product lines and “transition the technology into high-volume manufacturing for mobile devices and other markets.”
“The addition of Cavendish Kinetics allows us to build on Qorvo’s market leadership in antenna tuning. Several of the world’s leading smartphone suppliers have validated significant improvements in antenna performance through lower losses and higher linearity delivered by CK’s RF MEMS technology,” said Eric Creviston, president of Qorvo Mobile Products, in a statement. “Qorvo will build on the great work CK has done by optimizing and scaling the technology and applying it to other applications like infrastructure and defense.”
In an April 2019 blog post on the use of RF MEMS in small cells (particularly at 5G frequencies), CK said that its technology “can provide significant value when used in the RF front end as part of a phased array. CK MEMS tuners have been selected by 5G infrastructure vendors for use in RF phase shifter circuits attached to each element in the array.” As mobile network operators design networks that make use of higher frequencies from about 3.3 GHz to 40 GHz, the company said, those networks will rely on dense deployments of small cells, and “phased arrays with high gain, electronically steerable beams will also be used to improve the link between the small cell and user. CK MEMS tuners will be used to create phase shifters with low loss and high resolution, enabling better system performance.”
CK lays claim in particular to reliability – crucial for microscopic mechanical systems, which could potentially wear out or fail due to moving parts. By January of 2015, CK’s RF MEMS tuners had passed 100 billion cycles in lifetime testing with zero failures – representing a “virtually unlimited lifetime,” as the company put it.
CK is headquartered in Silicon Valley and has offices in Texas, the Netherlands, Korea and China.