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Frequency agnostic mobile device chip developed in Cambridge

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A Cambridge-based semiconductor start-up has unveiled a new chip that it said will "change the way global smartphones, wearables and IoT devices are designed".

The Forefront RF chip enables connected devices to operate "across the 3G to 6G" frequency bands. To do this, Forefront RF said its cancellation technology redesigns the radio frequency (RF) system in a wireless device, enabling manufacturers to simplify the design and delivery of frequency agnostic products, whilst reducing cost and supply chain waste.

Dr Leo Laughlin, who founded Forefront RF the company last year, said: “The growth in mobile networks driven by the ever-increasing demand for data means that available frequency bands vary from region to region and, using today’s technology, has driven the need for region-specific smartphone variants each including multiple RF components. The space consumed within each smartphone adds cost and leads to inefficiencies in the supply chain.”

The chip uses Forefront RF’s Adaptive Passive Cancellation (APC) technology, similar to that used in noise-cancelling headphones.  Forefront RF’s APC chip replaces the banks of RF filters and switches with a low cost, tuneable RF circuit. The component uses embedded software to maintain the accuracy of unique passive self-interference cancellation circuits. This enables a smartphone's receiver to “hear” the weakest signals while transmitting at full power.

Backed by investors the Bristol-based Science Creates Ventures, Foresight Williams Technology, BGF, and The Cambridge Angels, the firm has raised £1.5 million to date, which it said would fund the recruitment of a "world-class team".

Phil O'Donovan has been named as the chairman. He is the MD and co-founder who helped CSR plc become "Bluetooth chip market leader".

Harry Destecroix, general partner at Science Creates Ventures, said: “We are extremely impressed by the Forefront RF team and their technology, and are delighted to be working with them and our co-investors. Together, we will enable the company to accelerate its impact on this important global industry.”

As a fabless semiconductor company, Forefront RF designed and created the prototypes but will lean on others for mass manufacturing and delivery of its chip. Doing this during a global shortage will not be simple, however, the firm told Capacity that it hoped the ramifications of last year's factory closures and component shortages will have passed before mass-production begins.

"Despite the global supply shortages, the tier 1 suppliers we’ve been working with have been very supportive of our prototyping work. We expect the additional manufacturing capacity currently being built across the industry will have eased the supply situation by the time we aim to begin mass production," a statement read.

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