Interconnect Advances Fuel Technology Growth
By Orwill Hawkins, Vice President of Marketing, LadyBug Technologies

With increased frequencies, higher data rates, and lower noise levels, the microwave industry serves as a leader in technological capability. Demand for quality interconnects has increased right along with other higher-performance areas in the industry.


MMD March 2014
New Military Microwave Digest


E-Band Active X5 Multiplier
Model SFA-743843516-12SF-N1 is an E-band X5 active multiplier with center frequency at 79 GHz with minimum +/-5 GHz operational bandwidth. It converts 14.8 to 16.8 GHz/+5 dBm input signal to deliver 74 to 84 GHz frequency band with more than +16 dBm power.
Sage Millimeter

Hand-Flex™ Coaxial Cable
Covering DC to 12.5 GHz, this 8” coaxial cable, 141-8SMNB+, has a bulkhead Female Type-N connector at one end and SMA-Male at the other. Features include low loss, excellent return loss, hand formable, and an 8mm bend radius for tight installations.

Phase Trimmer Series
This new phase trimmer series is designed for RF applications where phase match between two cables is needed for proper system performance. Phase trimmers, offered from DC to 50 GHz, will give an accurate phase adjustment over a specified frequency range.
RLC Electronics

Planar Monolithics Industries
Model PTRAN-100M18G-SFB-3UVPX-MAH is a transceiver covering the frequency range of 100 MHz to 18 GHz. The transceiver fits into a 3U Open VPX form factor utilizing the high speed VITA 67 RF connector.
Planar Monolithics Industries

SMT High-Power Attenuators
Now available with full design support capabilities are three new SMT high-power attenuators from Anaren. These 30 to 50W devices are high-performance, high-power chip attenuators covering DC to 3.0 GHz and feature high return loss and small footprints.
Richardson RFPD

See all products in this issue

December 2013

By Ted Heil, Vice President


Q: Is there a particular emerging application or technology that intrigues you?

A: At Mini-Circuits, we are always focused on a number of technology initiatives which we consider intriguing. Today, these efforts include extending our multi-layer LTCC designs up to 20 GHz; expanding our low-noise/high-dynamic range amplifiers in both noise figure and IP3; and pushing our passive MMIC line in both breadth and frequency.

That being said, one of the most interesting areas for Mini-Circuits right now is in our line of portable test equipment (PTE). Over the past several years, we’ve developed this product line around a clear market need for cost-effective, feature-focused equipment that can be used in a variety of production and portable applications. Starting from power sensors and synthesized signal generators, our product offering has grown to include switch matrices, frequency counters, control I/O boxes, and programmable attenuators, and we’re pushing development in more complex signal analyzer systems.

With these products, we’ve been able to satisfy a market need for stand alone equipment, but we’re also creating a scalable platform that can be easily integrated with other Mini-Circuits PTE modules and components to build custom automated test equipment. We’ve taken a modular building-block approach to developing customer solutions, held together with easy-to-configure software. This all results in test racks that are physically smaller, easier to control, faster to market, and much more affordable than other configurations that have been common in the industry.

Of course, custom ATE is not a novel innovation; demand for custom ATE based upon standard off-the-shelf test equipment goes as far back as when Dave Packard and Bill Hewlett produced their first products. What is new and interesting about our approach is the speed and low cost at which we can now bring custom solutions to market. With feature-focused equipment, easily configurable and integrated together to meet specific production requirements, we see a path to driving return on capital in the production environment and helping offset what has traditionally been one of the largest investments for companies producing RF products. We think this approach can change the dynamic in the production test arena; we have seen it in our own production floor, and we already see traction in the market as others are thinking along the same lines.

Q: Are you experiencing any effects of the reduction in defense spending, or are you anticipating any impact on your business?

A: Of course we are seeing the effect of sequestration on our defense and government business. We see it across the spectrum of applications from electronic counter measures to surveillance to defense communications. However, we are seeing it concentrated in the delayed launch of new programs rather than in cuts to existing programs. And even in the midst of these delays, we continue to see activity in the R&D sector for defense and government, whether self-funded or externally funded. The industry is still evolving, coming up with new designs and new approaches to existing challenges. The big question we all face is how many of these programs will move forward to production – and when.

For us at Mini-Circuits, we believe in the importance of continuing to support designs for military and defense applications despite the questions surrounding production launch. We genuinely feel a commitment to our customers, our customers’ engineers, and of course, our national defense, and through this commitment, we continue to vigorously support these R&D efforts and development programs in the defense market.

Q: Deployment of small cells and distributed antenna systems is increasing rapidly as wireless carriers attempt to provide “broadband wireless data everywhere.” If your company is involved in any portion of the “HetNet” market, please tell us how you feel this market will develop.

A: Mini-Circuits is supporting a number of small cell initiatives across multiple base station OEMs. And through this effort, we have learned a lot more about the future landscape of wireless infrastructure deployments for 4G and beyond. As a result, we are confident that a portion, and maybe even a significant portion of next-generation roll outs and overlays will be accomplished through small cell deployments.

We also believe that the equipment used to support these deployments will be radically different from the Macro, Micro, and Metrocells to which we were accustomed from previous wireless standards evolutions. This time, the base stations will be extremely small, low power, and highly integrated. This equipment will be dominated by highly integrated silicon SOC solutions with minimal discrete RF components. For developers and fabs of highly integrated silicon, there is significant opportunity. But this game is not for all. There is a high barrier to enter into this space, either as a fab or a design OEM. Silicon development costs are high, and therefore so are the risks.

Although the buzz of opportunity is currently focused on the suppliers of silicon SOC solutions, these systems will still require passive circuits at the periphery to interface with other elements including PA and antennas. This is where Mini-Circuits’ future remains strong – in supplying components supporting small cell systems, including LTCC filters, LNAs, and medium power amplifiers. While we fully recognize the shift from discrete componentry to integrated SOCs in microcells, we still see small cell deployment as an opportunity to grow our business in the wireless markets.

Q: China has long been considered the greatest potential global market for many companies in the RF and microwave industry. Do you feel this is still true? Are there other emerging markets that you believe will be lucrative in the next few years?

A: China is and will always be an important growth avenue for Mini-Circuits. As we have said in previous discussions, it is no longer just a global center for low cost manufacturing, but has really become a global center for development of competitive intellectual property. This is evident through both the vast number of western companies who have located R&D centers in China and through the growth in number of local Chinese OEM’s. While the Chinese government continues to pour billions of dollars into research institutes and support for networks of private companies, there are many domestic Chinese operating companies not dependent on the government for support, and we believe these phenomena will proliferate continued growth in the Chinese market.

We also expect to see a pro-cyclical resurgence of the US market as well as in Europe. Europe has been in deep recession for so many years, and the growth in our business has stagnated on the continent as a result. These countries are working through this tough time, and we remain confident that Europe will recover. And finally, we do believe the remainder of the BRICs present long term potential as well.

Q: What do you believe will be the greatest challenge for the RF and microwave industry?

A: We foresee a major challenge in how the RF and microwave industry will wrestle with advances in Silicon and SiGe based System-On-Chip technology. In only the past year, we’ve seen a number of amazing products either released to the market or announced as in development. These products have pushed performance barriers of SOC solutions to a degree that could disrupt the market for discrete components and pure GaAs fabs, and the outcome for suppliers of traditional RF and microwave products is uncertain.

For example, the prospect of standard transceiver chipsets that cover the vast majority of applications from a few hundred MHz to 40 GHz could effectively force customers to design their systems around commodity chipsets. Will Silicon dominate the market or only mid to high volume applications? Will the remainder of smaller volume applications be enough to support the broader suppliers, or will we lose supplier base? If hardware becomes generic, where does commoditization leave suppliers of discrete components and non-silicon-based technology? These are all questions we’re asking right now.

In our opinion, this evolution will eventually put pressure on the traditional supply base to innovate to survive. Most of the current supply base cannot go head-to-head with these solutions. And to be honest, it would be foolhardy for most to try. This is where real innovation comes into play. For us, this is a critical time to remain extremely close to our customers, to understand their needs, and to innovate in support of these needs. Our solution at Mini-Circuits is to make sure we continue to add value to all our customers. Our strength is in our diversity – a diversification of markets, customers, technologies, and products. While we continue to support our large volume customers on the periphery of SOCs, we expend a significant amount of energy to ensure that we are also continuing to create value for the huge number of our customers that operate in many diverse, smaller volume applications.


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Uncertain Times for DefenseIn Defense of DARPA; Lamenting Bell Labs
By Barry Manz

A federal agency like DARPA is a sitting duck for politicians and assorted other critics. It has come up with some truly bizarre programs over years that ultimately either delivered no tangible results, were canceled before they could cause any damage, or attempted to answer questions that nobody was asking or needed answers to. Read More...

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