RFFE Protocol

RFFE Protocol: Introduction

Mobile radio communication involves multi-radio systems composed of several parallel transceivers making a leap in complexity for the RF front end design. RF front end devices include power amplifiers, low noise amplifiers, filters, switches, power management modules, antenna tuners and sensors. The devices may be located either in a separate unit, or they may be integrated into a single module depending on the applications. RF Front-End Control Interface (RFFE) offers a common method for controlling RF front end devices. RFFE provides a low-complexity solution to meet the cost and performance of RF front end devices. RFFE is designed to support existing 3GPP standards such as LTE, LTE-A, EGPRS, UMTS, HSPA etc and also other non-3GPP air interfaces.

RFFE Protocol: Theory of operation

RFFE Protocol is a two-wire serial interface intended to be used to connect one or more radio frequency ICs (RFICs) in a mobile terminal to their related front-end modules (FEMs) to control and monitor them. RFFE has two primary signal lines- A serial bidirectional data signal (SDATA) and a clock signal (SCLK). RFFE interface enables systems to efficiently control various FEMs in next generation mobile terminals with increased complexity of performance supporting multi- mode, multi-band and multiple antennas, using RFFE bus or by using multiple buses.

There are two configurations of RFFE namely, Basic configuration and Complex configuration.

The basic configuration and its bus structure are as shown in figure 1 which is a single master configuration. RFFE requires two primary signaling lines- One serial bidirectional data signal (SDATA) and one clock signal (SCLK), which is controlled by the bus owner master. Additional signals may be present on an RFFE device as a means for providing additional proprietary functionality.

RFFE v2 is a more complex bus structure. This is a multi master configuration and the high- level view of such a structure is shown in figure 2. SCLK and SDATA signal lines and connections remain the same, but the number of master devices on a particular bus instance may be up to four.


RFFE v1 Interface and Bus structure

Figure 1. RFFE v1 Interface and Bus structure


RFFE v2 interface and bus structure

Figure 2. RFFE v2 interface and bus structure


RFFE Pin Descriptions:


VIO is the RFFE interface voltage reference or supply. The primary function of the VIO signal is to provide a shared voltage reference for the SCLK and SDATA pins for all devices on an RFFE bus instance.


The SCLK signal provides the clocking and synchronization for all devices on an RFFE bus. It is always sourced by the Bus Owner Master (BOM) device.

In the case of a bus which has multiple master devices, the responsibility for the sourcing of SCLK is transferred to the new BOM any time that a master switchover occurs. There will be a dedicated SCLK signal for each RFFE bus instantiation.


The SDATA signal on an RFFE bus provides the mechanism for command and data transfers, on the RFFE bus.

For write only slaves the SDATA pin is input-only. For slaves supporting read and write operations, the SDATA is bi-directional.


RFFE provides a continuous range of frequencies for operation thus providing a flexibility in clock sourcing. The active RFFE master device BOM is responsible for sourcing the non- continuous bus clock (SCLK) in accordance with specified requirements such as edge transition times.

The master device may select a desired operating frequency for SCLK at any time. The available range of SCLK frequencies and their parameters are given in the table below:

RFFE Frequencies of operation

Figure 3. RFFE Frequencies of operation

RFFE Protocol: Data Transfer Structure


The Sequence Start Condition (SSC) shall be a unique condition on the bus which is identified by a rising edge of SDATA, followed later by a falling edge on SDATA, all while SCLK remains at a logic ‘0’ level. The SSC is used by the master to identify the beginning of a new command sequence. Slaves shall synchronize themselves to expect a new command sequence following the detection of an SSC. The master shall generate the SSC by driving SDATA to logic level ‘1’ for one SCLK period, then to logic level ‘0’ for one SCLK period, all while holding SCLK at logic level ‘0’.

Sequence start condition

Figure 4. Sequence start condition


There are basically three types of frames and all three frame types consist of address plus command, or of data, or address bits, plus a parity bit.


A command frame shall consist of a 4-bit slave address field, an 8-bit command payload field and a single parity bit, for a total of 13 bits. The first four bits of the address field are the slave address (SA) bits, followed by the eight command bits, and finally followed by the parity bit for the frame. The parity bit is calculated over the 12 bits of the CF. Command frame structure is as shown

Command Frame

Figure 5. Command Frame


A data frame or an address frame shall consist of right data bits or eight address bits respectively and a single parity bit. The frame is called an address frame when the payload bits carry address information and a data frame when the payload bits carry data information. Otherwise the frame structure is identical. The type of payload data being carried is defined by the position of the frame within the command sequence.

Data or Address Frame

Figure 6. Data or Address Frame


All bits including the parity bit of a no response frame (NRF) shall be ‘0’. This frame may be generated by driving SDATA to logic level ‘0’ or by passively allowing the master to pull SDATA to a logic ‘0’ for the duration of the frame. A no response frame is nine bits long since it is a data frame. A no response frame may be transmitted passively or actively. A passive no response frame may be the result of a write-only slave during a read command sequence, while an active or passive NRF may be the response from a read-capable slave in the event of a read operation to an unused register location in that device.

 No Response Frame (Passive)

Figure 7. No Response Frame (Passive)


All frames shall end with a single parity bit. The parity bit shall be driven such that the total number of bits in the frame that are driven to logic level '1', including the parity bit, is odd, thus
achieving odd parity.

RFFE Protocol Debug:

Debugging RFFE Protocol continues to remain a challenge. Decoding the packets will help to better understand Protocol related issues and help speedup the engineering debug and development time. Prodigy has developed a Protocol Analyzer for debugging the RFFE protocol.

RFFE Protocol Analyzer and Exerciser


Prodigy Technovations has developed several Protocol Analyzers right from I2C all the way to PCIe Protocol Analyzer. Prodigy Technovations has been leading the space of protocol analyzer globally.