Cambridge semiconductor startup secures 1.5m in funding to develop innovative RF chip


Forefront RF co-founders, Julian Hildersley (left) and Leo Laughlin (right) at their office in Cambridge, UK. Credit: Forefront RF.

A Cambridge semiconductor startup is looking to capitalise on the growing demand for sleek, region-specific smartphones with its innovative, frequency agile, tunable RF front-end chip.

According to Gartner*, global smartphones sales are estimated to hit 1.5 billion units this year. Gartner says faster connectivity, higher-quality cameras and longer battery life will drive this increased demand. But all of these features can come at the detriment of a smartphone’s design, particularly its sleekness.

Add to this the fragmented mobile spectrum, which sees more than 70 different frequency bands used around the world, and it is increasingly difficult for a smartphone manufacturer to make a unit that covers a multitude of geographic regions and keep the design appealing.

With this mind, Forefront RF**, a Cambridge-based fabless semiconductor startup, has entered the smartphone market, looking to negate the need for multiple RF components in a single handset.

Forefront RF has developed a frequency agile, tunable RF front-end chip that enables a device to access multiple mobile handset frequency bands.

In an interview with EE Times Europe, Leo Laughlin, co-founder of Forefront RF said the need for multiple RF components not only consumes more space inside the device, but also "adds cost and leads to inefficiencies in the supply chain.”

To help further its ambitions, Forefront RF has secured £1.5 million in its first funding round, led by led by Bristol-based Science Creates Ventures.

Forefront RF says the funds will be used to recruit a world-class team to accelerate the launch of its products. The firm expects to double its team to 10 people by the end of the year, looking to recruit engineers with experience in RF system architecture, software algorithms, and physical design and layout.

Founded in 2020 by Dr Leo Laughlin, Julian Hildersley and Phil O’Donovan, Forefront RF is looking to change the way global smartphones, wearables and IoT Devices are designed. The company’s revolutionary chip enables connected devices to operate across the increasingly wide range of 3G to 6G mobile telephony frequency bands.

“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,” said Laughlin.

* https://www.gartner.com/en/newsroom/press-releases/2021-02-03-gartner-says-worldwide-smartphone-sales-to-grow-11-percent-in-2021
** https://www.forefrontrf.com/

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