Tim Going, President, StratEdge Corporation
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?
Huge challenges. With 5G, all the different people involved will have to learn how to economically design and package semiconductors that work in these frequencies. It’s difficult for many companies to hit the economies of scale that are required for consumer electronics like a cell phone. This is because there hasn’t been as much development done for consumer applications with these frequencies. Technically, it’s more difficult and not as well-defined a technology. The filtering technology that is required, especially with the addition of more frequencies, is more complex.
Besides the consumer side, there are the challenges of the high-power infrastructure for the base stations and towers. High-power frequencies, in general, are always a challenge. However, that presents opportunities for companies like ours that manufacture and assemble packages for power amplifiers and GaN devices that will be needed for infrastructure allocation.
All this will result in significant investments by the service providers and, initially, higher costs for the consumers. Ultimately, though, the industry will always achieve the necessary consumer pricing targets.
MPD: What RF and microwave technologies do you feel will have the greatest impact in our industry overall between now and 2020?
For sure, the adoption of IoT and advanced cellular technology will have major impacts. Both will be adopted and rolled out during the next two to three years as there becomes much wider adoption of these technologies and products.
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?
Of course it is! IoT is going to be eating up lots of bandwidth and a tremendous amount of the world is going to be connected. RF and microwave frequencies will be used in a lot of the technologies, including new channels for WiFi and cellular technologies. They will require the use of 5G systems because there isn’t enough bandwidth to accommodate all the IoT data that will be used by the multitude of applications. Just imagine all the bandwidth used by cars with smart features and optimized homes. Every piece of bandwidth, WiFi, existing cellular, and 5G networks will be taxed. It will have a major impact on the RF industry.
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.
I strongly agree for a number of reasons. First, defense applications typically are one of the main technology drivers. They are the ones that always require state-of-the-art technology and they are pushing development, going back to the mid-80s with the development of the GaAs initiative. It was the military that invented and drove the compound semiconductor industry. Seeing a continued push from my defense contractor friends, it’s evident that the requirements for RF and microwave technology are only going to increase in years to come for applications in guidance, communications, control systems—for UAVs for example—and other advanced defense systems for terrestrial, aerospace, and satellite.