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This paper reports on the experimental and theoretical characterization of RF microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) switches for high-power applications. First, we investigate the problem of self-actuation due to high RF power and we demonstrate switches that do not self-actuate or catastrophically fail with a measured RF power of up to 5.5 W. Second, the problem of switch stiction to the down state as a function of the applied RF power is also theoretically and experimentally studied. Finally, a novel switch design with a top electrode is introduced and its advantages related to RF power-handling capabilities are presented. By applying this technology, we demonstrate hot-switching measurements with a maximum power of 0.8 W. Our results, backed by theory and measurements, illustrate that careful design can significantly improve the power-handling capabilities of RF MEMS switches.