Donn Mulder, Sr. VP and General Manager, Anritsu Company
MPD: Millimeter wave frequencies will be used for cellular communications for the first time in 5G. What challenges and opportunities does this present for the microwave industry?
Millimeter wave communications present a whole set of challenges for the industry in terms of transmission range, cost, power consumption and size. The good news is that, for broadband services, the millimeter bands offer far more bandwidth than their sub 6 GHz cousins. The cost and complexity of these technologies, in the short term, means that the deployment will be restricted to point-to-multi-point last mile solutions as opposed to fully mobile solutions. Albeit limited in scope, this large scale technology deployment offers the industry a couple of benefits — the first being that more people will be developing these technologies, which will increase understanding and ultimately drive innovation in cost, transmission techniques (signal processing techniques such as beamforming, for example) and power consumption. Secondly, it provides the perfect mechanism for consumers and service providers to understand its advantages and create demand for higher levels of low latency broadband data consumption — meaning that one day we may have a 28/39 GHz cellphone that operates flawlessly while being driven down the Autobahn in excess of 200 km/h by your driverless car.
Recently we’ve introduced two spectrum analyzers for 5G testing. The MS2850A is ideal for R&D and production applications. With a frequency range of 43 GHz and a modulation bandwidth of 1 GHz, this device is fully capable of analyzing pre-5G signals. For field applications such as in-building signal mapping, key for determining the best placement of the 5G modem indoors, the new Spectrum Master™ MS2760A with TRX NEON® Signal Mapper can help you create 3D in-building coverage maps.
MPD: What RF and microwave technologies do you feel will have the greatest impact in our industry overall between now and 2020?
There are a number of areas that will impact our industry over the next few years. On the high end, as mentioned, broadband services such as 5G, that utilize advanced transmission techniques and cost-optimized broadband millimeter hardware designs, will drive a large amount of investment and innovation through 2020. In the E-band spectrum, wireless access, point-to-point radio links and automotive radar are also key investment areas that are trying to break the volume/cost/performance barrier. Anritsu is also working in this area with our Nonlinear Transmission Line (NLTL) technology that has helped change the cost/performance paradigm in E-band with our new MS2760 ultraportable spectrum analyzer and ShockLine™ E-band VNAs. Finally, at the lower end of the price/performance continuum, we have wireless IoT devices. These are low cost, low power and very low latency RF devices optimized for control and monitoring applications. They have performance demands such as multi-year battery life and sub-second latencies, and form factors as diverse as smart home peripheral controllers, smart warehouses sensors, wearable health monitors and logistics/transportation tracking devices.
MPD: After years of hype and little to show for it, IoT networks are actually being deployed in a variety of applications. Do you believe IoT is a major opportunity for the RF and microwave industry? If so, why and if not, why not?
IoT is at last coming of age, and is becoming a commercial reality with products such as smart watches, smart homes, smart sound systems and smart assistants enjoying reasonable levels of success and fueling the IoT business. While we are on the tail end of the first wave of health wearable devices, with demand year-on-year decreasing for step trackers, heart rate monitors and the like, technology developed in the next few years will drive great innovation in this space and solve some of the outstanding issues resulting from the fact that devices always have to be connected to your phone or rely on good WiFi coverage in your home. We in the wireless industry have the opportunity to make these IoT connections simple and seamless.
Anritsu has already rolled out various IoT solutions, including: connected home testing solutions for the home automation technology that will be developed with IoT;automotive test solutions that will contribute to the development of technology such as wireless connectivity and driving support systems; test solutions for R&D in the IoT; and, M2M test market, and solutions to meet the development and testing needs of IoT manufacturers.
MPD: We believe that the defense industry will retain its crucial importance to the RF and microwave industry regardless of overall DoD budget constraints. Do you agree with this statement? Either way, please explain your reasoning.
Developing RF and microwave technology is an expensive endeavor, and sometimes pushing true innovation in this area requires funding beyond that afforded by commercial companies. Most of the radio technology we use today has been built on past DoD/DARPA projects and programs, and by engaging and participating in defense, the RF and microwave industry gets a glimpse of what could be the next generation of commercially available parts and techniques. For example, DARPA’s Microsystems Technology Office (MTO) has a long history of investment in technologies such as RF semiconductors and collaborative agency programs such as the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL). The U.S. Air Force collaboration with the commercial industry gave us the Global Positioning System (GPS), which is fundamental commercial technology in many of the “smart” applications consumers love today. So we agree that the defense industry will retain its crucial importance to the RF and microwave industry, and Anritsu continues to offer several products in support of defense applications, including spectrum monitoring and signal hunting.