Rob Smith, CEO, Filtronic
MPD: The 2019 defense budget is chock full of EW, radar, and other programs with lots of RF and microwave content, so, if your company serves the defense market, what are your thoughts about how this will affect your business in the coming years?
We expect defense contracts to constitute a significant part of our activities in 2019. The long gestation period from design win to fulfillment means that a sustained effort is required to enter and grow business in this market, but we are now reaping the rewards of investment in prior years.
MPD: 5G is already generating revenue for some sectors of the RF and microwave industry, and this should increase next year. How do you think the implementation of 5G will affect business in the coming year?
We are seeing a number of opportunities and inquiries related to 5G for both network access products and backhaul. We have recently announced significant contract wins for MIMO antennas, and we are also seeing a strong demand for mmWave radios for 5G backhaul, both for terrestrial and for HAPS / LEO applications.
MPD: Overall, how would you compare the health of the industry compared with years past?
Defense and critical communications applications are providing good demand for wireless products, and overall the industry is healthy. Here in the UK, it is pleasing to see that the government is actively supporting the RF, microwave and wireless sector through its Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN), and is also encouraging projects to flow down to SMEs. Nevertheless, telecoms vendors are under significant price pressure from Chinese competitors who are selling product below cost in order to gain market share. A number of nations have already banned Chinese vendors from participating in 5G due to significant security concerns. It is probably time for the UK and the EU authorities to take this threat more seriously, too.
MPD: What RF and microwave technologies will be driving the industry in 2019?
As noted last year, high speed SiGe BiCMOS and SOI CMOS are both making inroads, and GaN continues to grow in importance. GaAs will play a vital role in enabling 5G mmWave, with GaN also beginning to play a part as its ability to operate at higher frequencies improves. The overall trends from prior years are also still continuing.