MEMS Timing Devices and Their Critical Role in Communications Infrastructure

Data consumption is forecast to dramatically increase due to mobility, cloud and other internet-related demands. Internet bandwidth usage alone is expected to double every two years. These data-driven demands are forcing an evolution in the communications infrastructure market – resulting in demands for higher data rates, more efficient use of bandwidth and higher network quality. While all of these performance requirements are increasing, there is also a parallel focus on going “Green” and cutting energy use to protect our environment.

At the heart of communications infrastructure equipment is the need for an accurate timing source to manage network traffic. As communications infrastructure technology advances, timing technology must advance as well.

The Challenges of an Evolving World

  • Faster data rates are forcing designers to meet lower jitter specifications
  • Higher network uptime demands are driving the removal of low quality fans from equipment, resulting in higher operating temperatures
  • More efficient spectrum usage is creating a market for small cells, which are often placed in environments subject to traffic, wind and rain – resulting in requirements for higher vibration immunity
  • An ongoing “Green” focus is driving requirements for higher reference frequencies to minimize power consumption from scaling
  • Profitability is pushing additional requirements for integration and cost reduction

MEMS Devices Overcome Quartz Shortfalls

Technologies like quartz have historically been the timing device of choice. However, quartz has limitations that potentially restrict improvements in performance:

  • Quartz performance rapidly degrades above 85°C
  • Its fundamental operating frequencies are typically limited to below 50 MHz and then scaled – resulting in more jitter and higher power consumption
  • Quartz performance and field reliability are impacted by vibrations from wind, rain and traffic as well as activity dips
  • Co-packaging quartz into low-cost overmolded products is not possible without significant and unpredictable performance changes

Unique Advantages of Sand 9’s MEMS Devices


In contrast, Sand 9’s timing products are the first MEMS devices that use piezoelectric actuation to achieve the stringent jitter and stability requirements of communications infrastructure applications. The high frequency, spurious-free resonator design, in conjunction with a low-noise oscillator, enables a low-jitter product, which can reduce packet loss and enhance network efficiency in communications applications.

The capability for integration—combined with high immunity to noise, shock and lead-free reflow temperatures—addresses the fundamental flaws in quartz around which system designers have been forced to design for decades.

Learn more about how Sand 9 MEMS can benefit new product designs.