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  Date: 28/11/2012

In 30GHz+ scopes, the differentiator is compound semiconductor material

Tektronix has used IBM's 0.18 micron Silicon-Germanium semiconductor chips in its oscilloscopes to increase the measuring bandwidth of high-range oscilloscopes. Now it has validated SiGe chips made from IBM’s 8HP silicon germanium (SiGe) BiCMOS Specialty Foundry technology to enhance the bandwidth capability of its scope range to 30GHz.

Tektronix says the new oscilloscope with 30GHz BW made using new SiGe chips can support measurement of high speed serial data beyond 10 Gb/s, and enhance optical modulation analysis of 100GbE where complex signaling requires accurate bit capture.

Tektronix's explanation of SiGe tech: IBM’s 8HP technology is a 130 nanometer (nm) SiGe bipolar complementary metal oxide semiconductor (BiCMOS) process that offers 2x performance over the previous generation. SiGe technology leverages highly-reliable and mature fabrication processes associated with the 50-year-old silicon industry, but with performance levels comparable to that of exotic materials such as Indium Phosphide (InP) and Gallium Arsenide (GaAs). Unlike those alternatives, SiGe BiCMOS provides access to high-speed bipolar transistors on the same die as standard CMOS, enabling a class of circuitry which marries extreme performance with large-scale integration. It is this union which has allowed Tektronix to reliably deliver feature-rich, high-speed data acquisition systems for over a decade.

Initial Tektronix product deployments using 8HP SiGe technology are expected later this year.

Another leading oscilloscope maker Agilent has used inhouse made InP based semiconductor chips in its Infinium 9000 X-series oscilloscopes, which are now the market's leading oscilloscopes by bandwidth performance with real-time bandwidth of 32 GHz.

So the competition is between InP and SiGe at technology level. 30GHz+ industry (both T&M as well as general RF industry) got to watch the material competition closely for biz success. Any novel material including graphene may give sharp-competing edge to innovating companies.

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