Joel Levine, President, RFMW, Ltd.
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?
RFMW has always been strong in the defense and aerospace market. Our first order was from a large, defense prime and we continue to serve that market with high power GaN amplifiers, power limiters, phase shifters and high-power switches from premier companies such as Qorvo, Skyworks, API Technologies, Smiths Interconnect and pSemi. Recently, we’ve enhanced our offering with high-rel MEMS oscillators from SiTime and low phase noise VCOs from APA Wireless. Some suppliers support the trend for miniaturization and have applied techniques, typical in commercial markets, to defense-oriented applications. For example, Qorvo recently introduced X-band front-end modules (FEMs) designed for next-generation AESA radar systems that incorporate a T/R switch, power amplifier, low noise amplifier and power limiter in a 6x6mm package. As new programs expand, RFMW will continue to grow and support existing and future requirements.
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?
5G technology and implementation hold the possibility of revolutionizing the mobile experience. The expansion of current voice/data/video into the Internet of Things (IoT), self-driving cars, Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) will require constant, fast connections. These connections will depend heavily upon the use of the millimeterWave spectrum in order to achieve the necessary speed and bandwidth. Many of the current 5G products are below 6 GHz where RF components are plentiful and we are participating in that with great RF power offerings from Qorvo and Ampleon. However, for millimeterWave frequencies, solutions are more scarce as OEMs develop the technology. Companies like Keysight, Qorvo, Microsemi and pSemi have long-standing, mmWave semiconductor product lines. Dielectric Labs and others have filter technology so some of the building blocks are in place and ready to be broadened. As more devices are developed, time-to-market will decrease and more end-product companies will emerge. This is critical as base station density of mmWave radios needs to be greater than 4G systems due to the shorter range of mmWave signals. Competition will eventually drive down costs and increase acceptance. RFMW has positioned itself to provide both RF and millimeterWave components to this growing industry and we also participate with Test and Measurement solutions to support design and test.
MPD: Overall, how would you compare the health of the industry compared with years past?
A rising tide raises all boats. With the economy continually breaking records and the concurrent increase in defense spending, it’s a great time to be in this industry. RFMW’s growth exceeded our goals for the last fiscal year and we are improving our worldwide infrastructure to support even higher growth in the future. The industry is doing well and we continue to focus on RF and microwave companies, providing leading edge technology that supports continued growth.
MPD: What RF and microwave technologies will be driving the industry in 2019?
In the semiconductor arena, GaN technology is proving to be competitive and offer value, not only in higher power devices, but in higher frequency devices as well. It therefore serves the defense and commercial markets mentioned previously. Silicon on Insulator continues to reach new boundaries for bandwidth and high frequency response. Passive devices, such as filters, are also seeing increased frequency limitations, whether it be BAW technology from Qorvo and Akoustis, ceramic waveguide from Sangshin Elecom or dielectric filters from Dielectric Labs. 5G, full duplex systems will need these advanced filter technologies. Interconnect technologies along with Test & Measurement, which typically takes more time for standards to be approved, arealso seeing new product development, as in Rosenberger’s development of 90 GHz connectors and XMA Corporation’s new 40, 50 and 65 GHz adapters, attenuators and terminations.