by Greg Henderson, VP RF and Microwave Business – Analog Devices
MPD: The defense market for RF and microwave components through subsystems appears to be more lucrative than in recent years, especially in the area of electronic warfare. If your company sells into the defense market, what are your thoughts about how it will perform in 2017?
The aerospace and defense market is expected to grow after several years of constrained spending as nations across the globe react to strategic realignments and terrorism. We expect our broad portfolio, ranging from components to sub-systems, to exceed the market pace in 2017 as electronic systems become a larger portion of the arsenal. Next generation platforms for electronic warfare, military communications and radar applications all demand technological and architectural innovations to address size, weight, power and cost reductions, collectively called SWAP-C.
ADI is leading the industry across a wide range of technologies to address complete antenna to bits solutions. From GaN high power amplifiers to SOI switches; from SiGe microwave beam-formers to up/down converters; and from CMOS high speed direct digitization to highly integrated RF transceivers, we are simplifying our customers’ designs and shortening their time-to-market to address the pace of modern day threats. Our customers realize that our breadth of technology makes us a strong partner, well-positioned to face the challenges at the system, component and technology levels.
MPD: The fifth generation of cellular is rapidly approaching and the immense scope of 5G seems almost certain to present significant opportunities for the RF and microwave industry. What is your perspective on this issue?
5G is challenging many of the paradigms of the past such as non-line-of-site propagation at microwaves, the high cost of traditional microwave components and the ecosystem around the cellular network. Both the traditional wireless infrastructure suppliers and new players are exploring 5G not only for cellular access, but also for back-haul, front-haul and universal delivery of Internet service. Innovations are required at many levels, from semiconductor and filter technologies to architectural partitioning in order to balance cost of solution against performance. At the same time, uncertainty in the standard means that frequency bands and signaling will not be finalized for years, yet test trials need hardware and test solutions today.
The interplay between system performance and hardware is critical to the end solution, making strong partnerships necessary today. In order to prepare for 5G, customers will look for suppliers like ADI that offer a wide portfolio of solutions and base technologies for the test trials and then quickly leverage them into products optimized for 5G. ADI offers a component portfolio that covers DC to 100GHz, enabling quick and flexible prototyping. We recently announced 10Gbps E-band radio links demonstrating our system level understanding. We expect and welcome 5G as the next disruptive force in wireless communications.
MPD: The Internet of Things (IoT) might better be called the Wireless Internet of Things, as without RF and microwave technology, little could be accomplished. If your company is selling into this market, please provide your perspective on IoT and its prospects for the RF and microwave industry.
IoT will come in many shapes and sizes, requiring different wireless access methods and sensor technologies, depending on the deployment mission details such as data throughput, cost, form-factor, lifetime and power source needs. Companies with expertise in a broad range of RF and microwave links will be instrumental in providing the connectivity—or the “Internet”—of the IoT. The other side of the IoT equation includes the devices that sense and gather data—the “Things” of the IoT. The organizations best positioned to play a major role in the IoT market will be those with expertise in both sensing and connectivity. ADI has long been a leader bridging the physical and digital worlds with technologies that sense, measure, interpret and connect. As a result, we believe we are well-suited to help customers succeed in the IoT market with our breadth of sensor and radio technologies.
MPD: In your opinion, what are the RF and microwave technologies to watch in 2017?
From a semiconductor perspective, we see a broad array of technologies optimized for different trade-offs. GaN, SiGe, SOI and CMOS are growing rapidly in emerging RF and microwave applications.
GaN is becoming the technology of choice for >5W power amplifiers offering wider bandwidth, and higher efficiency and smaller size than competing high power technologies. SiGe is penetrating many microwave signal chains thanks to higher integration levels and extra functionality like calibration, reconfigurability and diagnostics, while maintaining the needed performance. We have already demonstrated that SOI technology together with innovative design techniques delivers switches and attenuators with better switching speed, lower insertion loss and smaller size than incumbent GaAs and pin-diode designs. Finally, CMOS continues to push towards higher frequencies at unprecedented levels of integration where multiple high performance radios are combined with high speed data converters and algorithms running within embedded microcontrollers.
Packaging has become an integral part of product design. While semiconductor technologies have pushed forward in speed and performance, packaging has followed closely behind, aided by electromagnetic CAD tools and co-simulation environments. Packaging, whether single- or multiple–die, will continue to evolve to address higher power levels and frequencies. Specialized and bulky front-end components such as filters, circulators and limiters continue to elude integration and miniaturization. Perhaps 2017 will bring innovations capable of realizing these functions consistent with the needs to reduce cost and size.
ADI continues to explore and develop a wide range of technologies to provide full solutions, whether in die, discrete, co-packaged or module-level form factors.