A Low Phase Noise VCO for Multi Band Wireless Transceivers
Shirin Bahramirad*, Jad G. Atallah**, Steffen Albrecht*

* Altran Technologies, The Netherlands, {bahramirad, albrecht}@altran-tech.nl ** Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden; atallah@imit.kth.se

Abstract—this paper presents a CMOS voltage controlled oscillator for multi standard wireless transceivers. The VCO structure is based on All- PMOS LC oscillators. The frequency range extends from 1.7 GHz to 2.5 GH, and tuning between frequencies is done by means of capacitor banks and varactors. Index Terms— All-PMOS LC oscillator, differential inductor, multi standard, phase noise, voltage controlled oscillator.

The organization of this paper is as follow: in section II wireless standards and their frequency specifications, which are assumed for this work, are described. In addition, different VCO structures are being discussed and the reasons for the chosen architecture are argued. The proposed solution for this application and simulation results are summarized in section III. A brief conclusion and future work are presented in section IV. II. DESIGN FRAMEWORK Among wireless standards, a set of five standards has been chosen for this work in order to prove the idea, including GSM, WCDMA, IEEE 802.11b and Bluetooth [2]. The frequency requirements for uplink/downlink of these standards are summarized in Table I.
Table I. Wireless standards and their frequency ranges

HE ever increasing use of wireless communication during recent years has led to the demand for transceivers to be small in size, consume less power and have low cost in addition to low phase noise and high performance. Moreover, operating in multiple wireless standards is one of the basic requirements for new generation of transceivers, to be able to serve new standards as well as being compatible with existing ones. Despite problems caused by low resistivity silicon substrates in RF circuits [1], reasonable power consumption, low cost and relatively small size for higher data rate in CMOS technology as well as technology’s capability in implementing full system on one chip, make CMOS technology an interesting choice in radio frequency circuit design. One of the key components in a wireless transceiver is its frequency synthesizer, which besides guaranteeing the accuracy of frequency; its phase noise, sidebands (spurs) and lock time will affect the performance of the transceiver. As a result, a high performance frequency synthesizer is required to cope with multi standard components. A typical synthesizer consists of a phase frequency detector, charge pump, loop filter, oscillator and a frequency divider. Among these, the oscillator is one of the components, which highly affect the phase noise performance of the PLL. Implementing a multi standard voltage controlled oscillator, as a built-in component in a frequency synthesizer will ease the necessary requirements for multi standard synthesizer. Hence, the design and implementation of a fully integrated VCO with high quality factor components and reasonable phase noise performance for multi standard receivers are the primary motivation behind this work.



Standard E-GSM 900 DCS 1800 WCDMA II WCDMA III IEEE 802.11b Bluetooth

Mobile Transmit (MHz) 1760-1830 1710-1785 1850-1910 1710-1785

Mobile Receive (MHz)

1850-1920 1805-1880 1930-1990 1805-1880 2412-2472 2402-2480

Looking at the frequency of these standards, the VCO should be tunable between 1.7 GHz and 2.5 GHz, to cover all the standards. Among all the above standards GSM has the most stringent requirement on phase noise, A -121 dBc/Hz at 600 KHz offset from center frequency, makes it the worst case requirement for phase noise for this work. In the following, various types of oscillators and a comparison between their performances are presented. Then the reasons for why choosing All-PMOS LC oscillator will be stated.

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Qc and QL are the quality factors of capacitor and inductor. Figure 1. RP ≈ RPL. Relaxation oscillator +90 The major advantage of resonatorless oscillators is the lack of large passive devices such as inductors and capacitors. The most common methods are Colpitts oscillator. Vdd Figure 3. Ring oscillator Rs The circuit oscillates with frequency of f osc = 1 . to infinity at this frequency. fig 5. which considerably reduces the phase noise. B. Ljω c = 1 . There are different approaches to design an LC oscillator. Impedance of LC tank Lp ≈ Ls Cp ≈ Cs RpL ≈ QL2. ωC LP = 1 and the voltage gain equals ωC C P oscillator tank resonates at frequency ω c = 1 LC . C. Colpitts and Hartley. the impedance of the inductor and capacitor are equal with opposite signs at resonance frequency. Hartley oscillator. use one transistor to provide sufficient gain and phase shift. In theory. there is a significant filtering characteristic in the LC oscillator. In general. is a resonatorless oscillator. RsC (1) For QL» 1 For QC » 1 Based on the above model. and as a result not suitable for our application. and Cross-Coupled oscillator. 2.+ and are defined as 1 Lω and . Fig. LC Oscillators To gain a better phase noise. this is also the main disadvantage of these types of oscillators since there would be no filtering of noise at output signal. Relaxation Oscillator As presented in fig.RsL RpC ≈ QC2.2 A. making the impedance of the tank equal jCω c +gmRP. like ring oscillators. Frequency of oscillation in both topologies is ωc = 1 Leq C eq . The circuit oscillates simply because of the positive feedback around M1 and M2.+ + . which makes them small in size and suitable for integration. the relaxation oscillator. The f -90 fc (a) f (b) Figure 4. Barkhausen’s criteria [3] has to be fulfilled. 4. However in practice both inductor and capacitor suffer from resistive components. 149 . Figure 2. ring oscillators and relaxation oscillators show a very poor phase noise performance. + . hence the resulting parallel resistance of the tank. (a) Magnitude and (b) phase response of an LC tank At resonance. is mainly determined by the inductor. A very simple resonator is an LC tank. It should be noted that for oscillation to start. RP. Therefore. Ring Oscillator A ring oscillator is basically an odd number of cascaded invertors in a feedback loop. As it is suggested in the figure. 1 shows a three-stage differential ring oscillator. resonators have been added to feedback network. However. the impedance of the tank can be presented as: R1 R2 Z= M1 M2 1 1 + + jω c C P jωc LP R p 1 (2) Iss Iss Magnitude and phase of such an oscillator are displayed in fig. 2Td M L C Ls Cs LP Cp Rp where Td is delay of each stage and M number of stages.+ + . the quality CωRs Rs factor of capacitors is much higher than that of inductors [3].

and as a result is smaller and more suitable for integrated circuits. PMOS-Only. First with regards to equations (4) and (5) it can be seen that with identical LC tank the gain has to be 4 times bigger in Colpitts. which is divided to three different types. resulting either wider transistor size or larger biasing current and as a result larger power consumption. C2 It is presented in [3] that at resonance the total phase shift around the loop is zero because each stage provides a zero frequency dependant phase shift. and they have less hot carrier effect [10]. an All-PMOS oscillator has been chosen for various reasons. Therefore PMOS VCO can achieve better phase noise performance than NMOS VCO. and as a result the fully differential model has been chosen for this project. In addition. Colpitts oscillators do not provide differential output. It should be mentioned here that maximum noise rejection is feasible in fully differential oscillator comparing to a single mode oscillator. For this work.6.3 Vdd LP C1 L1 Vdd Cp Vdd Rp Rp M1 M2 Vb Iss M1 C2 Vb Iss M1 L2 C Vo1 M1 L Vo2 M2 Itail (c) Figure 6. In summary PMOS VCO is more appropriate in terms of phase noise performance. resulting the following limitation on gain for oscillation to begin: g m1 RP g m 2 RP ≥ 1 → ( g m RP ) ≥ 1 2 (5) resulting the following expression to fulfill the Barkhausen’s criteria. PMOS transistors have smaller 1/f noise due to lower mobility comparing to NMOS transistors. Vdd L1 Vo1 M1 Itail (a) (b) L2 M1 Vo2 M2 L1 C L2 Vo1 Vdd Itail M2 Vo2 To choose between Colpitts oscillator and Cross-Coupled oscillator. it should be noted that Colpitts suffer from two drawbacks. (4) g m RP ≥ 4 Another approach to design an LC oscillator is CrossCoupled oscillator. The minimum required gain occurs when C1 = 1. Complementary Cross-Coupled has two more transistors comparing to PMOS Only. Cross-Coupled oscillators (a) NMOS-Only (b) PMOS-Only and (c) Complementary (a) (b) Figure 5. Moreover using PMOS transistors for current source provides excellent suppression of power supply noise. NMOS-Only and Complementary CrossCoupled. fig. it is more frequently used than Hartley oscillators. C 150 . and the level of SNR is higher in differential circuit. And secondly. resulting in almost five times more parasitic capacitance and hence degradation in tuning range and introducing more noise sources. (a) Colpitts and (b) Hartley oscillators Since Colpitts architecture uses only one inductor. Small signal analysis of Colpitts oscillator will result in following equation for gain g m RP = (C1 + C 2 )2 C1C 2 (3) where gm is the gain from source of M1 and RP loss of the LC tank.

It should be noted that the circuit is fully differential and must remain symmetrical. Varactors have been used for fine-tuning around each frequency of oscillation.2 nH and a simulated Q value of 12 at frequency of 2. 8. Fig. 3.7 GHz to 2.5 GHz. Inc.34 GHz.18 566. 2003. 2003. 151 . For this work. vol. 7. Sweden 2006. Ongoing work by the authors targets VCO operation over the entire band from 1.18μm CMOS technology.7 GHz to 2.02 659. 3. Behzad Razavi. A comparison between recently published LC oscillators is shown in Table IV.4 ~ 1. The output is seen from the RL. Table III. It is more desirable to use a differential inductor instead of two single ended because a differential inductor will consume almost half the area of two single ended inductors with considerably higher Q. The VCO operates between 1. IEEE Journal of Solid State Circuits.03 1. VCO sensitivity.7 949. vol. Behzad Razavi. However. With capacitor C1 added to LC tank. a differential inductor has been designed using Momentum simulator of Agilent ADS. “Integrated Circuit Technology Options for RFIC’s Present Status and Future Directions”.5 GHz. Ismail. Chalmers University of Technology.86 834. The base frequency is chosen to be 2.18μm CMOS process using Agilent ADS and Cadence. covering all currently existing gaps in the operation range. Vx and Vy in the circuit. the resulting parallel resistance of the tank.1/-119. G: Atallah. due to the reduction in the substrate loss. “A Study of Phase Noise in CMOS Oscillators. RF Microelectronics.” Doctoral Thesis. The circuit shown in fig. shown in fig. Phase noise performance of the oscillator for all frequency bands at 600 KHz offset frequency are summarized in Table V. Table II. 31.7 GHz and 2. capacitors banks. center frequency changes to fc = 2. Figure 11 and Table VI represent the frequency tuning over the control voltage.95 1. vol. IV. 27 – 30 Dec. The oscillator shows phase noise performance of –127. J.8 Inductors are the most area-consuming components on the chip and the overall phase noise of the circuit depends primarily on the quality factor of the inductors. “A CMOS Frequency Synthesizer for MultiStandard Wireless Devices. The values of capacitors are summarized in Table II. the components should be selected so that the circuit is capable of oscillating at six different frequency bands in the range of 1. Figure 7.5GHz is shown in fig 8. no. 387-399. and KVCO for each frequency band respectively. REFERENCES [1] [2] Lawrence E.8V fully integrated multi standard low noise oscillator designed in 0. the total tank capacitance is formed by combination of the fixed capacitor.5 GHz respectively. Therefore. “A Harmonic-Oscillator Design Methodology Based on Describing Functions. The proposed circuit is presented in fig. pp. no. M.4 2. VCO specification Frequency of Oscillation Min. and connected differentially to the circuit. so the fix capacitor and inductor are resonating at this frequency.” Proceedings of the 46th IEEE International Midwest Symposium on Circuits and Systems. 8 includes the oscillator core along with biasing circuit. March 1998. varactors and parasitic capacitances. The circuit consumes supply current of 13mA. Differential Inductor [3] [4] [5] Varactors are used to tune the frequency inside the selected band.” IEEE Journal of Solid State Circuits.34 487. is mainly determined by the inductor. limiter and output buffers.4) -121dBc/Hz at 600 KHz Offset 13 mA Frequency [GHz] Capacitor C1–C5 [fF] 2. 10 shows phase noise values at center frequency of 2. For this reason. Sensitivity (KVCO) Control Voltage (Vtune) Phase Noise Current consumption 1700MHz ~ 2500MHz 35 MHz/Volt 1Volt (0. 1998. Larson. The value of switched capacitors The overall specifications for the VCO are summarized in Table III. Capacitor banks are added to switch between different frequency bands and varactors are used for fine-tuning within each frequency.5 GHz. 3. Jesper Bank. CONCLUSION This paper presents a 1. 33. DESIGN AND SIMULATION RESULTS Now that the structure of oscillator has been chosen. Addition of each capacitor bank from C2 to C5 will result in a change of center frequency by 160 MHz. March 1996. and the tuning range. each level consists of two capacitors.9 2.7 GHz and 2. The steady state output of the oscillator at 2.5 GHz. RP. Prentice Hall. The circuit is designed in UMC 0.4 III.1 dBc/Hz at 600KHz offset from 1. as the quality factor in capacitors is much higher than in inductor’s.5 GHz.5 150 2.5 GHz by means of array of switched capacitors. with value equal to 4.

H.18 25/0. C.5 GHz oscillation frequency Figure 10. International Conference on Communication. no. H.97-4. Chen.5 GHz 152 . Danesh. “Differentially Driven Symmetric Microstrip Inductors.6V 0. R. 2005.1 1.18μm 2/5. J. [9] M. 1990.2 -70 Output Voltage [V] Phase Noise [dBc/Hz] -90 -110 -130 1. “CMOS Devices and Technology for VLSI”.58 V=1. J.5 [6] M. Lin. “A Low Power 2/5. Table IV.1V V=1. W.58 280/0. Circuits and Systems. NJ: Prentice Hall. Lee. Output voltage at 2. C. Long.18 100O Vdd 1KO 40/0.3mW [11] 1. Comparison with recently published VCOs Supply Process Frequency Phase noise Power [8] 2. He. 2007.18μm 2.0 Vy 0. Chen. [10] J. Phase noise performance at 2. Cambridge University Press. “The Design of CMOS Radio Frequency Integrated Circuit”. 1. Y. Fully differential All-PMOS VCO Vx -50 1.8V 0.17O RL=50O 15O Vtune C=150fF 75/0.2 dBc/Hz at 1MHz 7mW V dd 100O V dd 1KO 40/0. “A Low Phase Noise 1-GHz LC VCO Differentially Tuned by Switched Step Capacitors”.45GHz -124. [7] T. [11] B.8 GHz -112/-107 dBc/HZ at 1MHz 11. S.18 28/0. Park.” IEEE Transaction on Microwave Theory and Techniques.18 95/0. [8] Z. Y.25μm 1GHz -130 dBc/Hz at 1MHz 9mW [9] 1. IEEE Asian Solid State Circuits Conference.18 1KO Vdd 371. Yeh. Min.1V 1KO 95/0.58 280/0.58 280/0. vol. Diep.8V 0. Englewood Cliffs. 2006. T. 50.7/9. The 9th International Conference on Advanced Communication Technology. Tang.18 75/0. H.18 Vy R L=50O 75/0. Liou.18 Vx 25/0. January 2002.58 280/0.9 100 200 300 400 -150 -170 1k 10k 100k Time[nsec] Offset Frequency 1M 10M 100M [Hz] Figure 9.8 GHz CMOS LC VCO for Multi band Wireless Communication Applications”. J. “All PMOS Wideband VCO for Multi band Multi Standard Radios”. 1998. Ho.18 C1 C2 C3 C4 C5 L C1 C2 C3 C4 C5 L Figure 8. Q.

4 0.2 1.995 2.1 2.6 Figure 11.18 2.373 2.874 1.986 1.5 2.877 1.8 0.86 1.206 2.501 2.002 2.01 2.721 1.723 116 94 81 61 48 37 153 .534 2.697 1.836 1.702 1.868 1.86GHz -125.174 2.7 0.548 2.4 0.3 1. Fine-tuning with varactors Table VI.131 2.364 2.34 2.721 1.34 2.6 0.855 1.865 1.9 1.02 1.194 2.2 1.7GHz -127.487 2.8 1.514 2.5 0.8 0.351 2.4 2.4 KVCO [MHz/V] 2.18 2.0 Vtune [Volts] 1.4 1.717 1.706 1.5GHz -119.3 1.1 1.71 1.017 2.6 0.2 1.212 2.336 2.849 1.525 2.0 1.432 2.6 0.024 2.843 1.34GHz -120.692 1.8 1.303 2.714 1.4 2.035 2.7 1.047 1.474 2.369 2.2 Freq [GHz] 2 1.5 1.155 2.7 2.1 Frequency of Oscillation @output 2.5 0.6 2.446 2.295 2.03 2. The tuning range and VCO sensitivity in each frequency band fosc [GHz] Vtune [V] 0.285 2.686 1.163 2.7 0.039 2. Phase noise analysis of the VCO at each frequency at 600KHz offset Oscillation Frequency Phase Noise [dBc/Hz] 2.463 2.34 2.18GHz -122.202 2.02GHz -124.86 1.043 2.1 1.829 1.19 2.143 2.871 1.6 Table V.379 2.9 1.541 2.

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