WDD identifies key challenges and trends when working with oscillators.

Data from a recent Wireless Design & Development (WDD) reader survey suggests that frequency tolerance is the most important specification to consider when implementing oscillators into their designs. The survey also offers reader thoughts on design challenges, trends, and future developments.


  • Frequency tolerance (65 percent) is the most important specification to consider when implementing oscillators, followed by:
  • Oscillation frequency – 56%.
  • Total frequency stability – 55%.
  • Operating temperature – 50%.
  • Supply voltages – 46%.

Frequency tolerance keeps track of time, provides stable clock signals, and stabilizes frequencies for radio transmitters and receivers, so it is obvious why it is considered the most important specification. A small percentage of readers (19 percent) pointed to other specifications, including:

  • Size.
  • Phase noise.
  • Reliability.
  • Jitter.
  • High altitude aerial environment.

Design Challenges & Obstacles

There are several challenges that design engineers face when integrating oscillators into their products. Size consideration is the most common challenge affecting (58 percent) WDD readers. Other challenges:

  • Environmental conditions – 44%.
  • Temperature range – 39%.
  • Standards and certifications – 31%.

A small percentage (15 percent) identified low power dissipation, power consumption, waveform, and electromagnetic interference.

Other considerable obstacles include cost (34 percent); design/test compliance requirements (21 percent); energy efficiency and sustainability (15 percent); time-to-market (11 percent); and frequency (5 percent).

Trends & Future Developments

According to the survey, cost (40 percent) and design/test compliance (29 percent) will play the most significant roles in the future developments of oscillators. Only 20 percent identified standards and certifications, while 12 percent added:

  • Stability at low power.
  • Higher frequency and stability.
  • MEMS.
  • Power consumption.

As always, write-in answers provided a bit of insight and entertainment:

  • “Need a smaller design and better frequency.”
  • “Poor oscillation is a key factor for its design.”
  • “If everything remains equal in terms of features, then cost will set them apart.”
  • “Need very high stability at low power to meet final overall system requirements.”
  • “MEMS need stability over temperature testing.”
  • “Many systems are moving smaller and smaller and power is getting more limited for miniaturized systems.”
  • “Government approval of RF devices is becoming stricter and certification is mandatory at even tiny power levels.”

After reviewing the results from the survey, it is clear that most design engineers agree that costs, design/test compliance requirements, and energy efficiency and stability are the main driving forces for future developments of oscillators.

This article originally appeared in the January/February print issue. Click here to read the full issue.