by Greg Peloquin, EVP of Power and Microwave Technologies Group – Richardson Electronics
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?
Our communications, our defense systems, and our weaponry are constantly becoming more complex and using larger amounts of increasingly sophisticated electronics. As a result, EW has the opportunity to be far more disruptive than in the past, and ECM and EW are increasingly critical. We are seeing the proliferation of UAVs of all sizes, with associated needs for both onboard electronics and communications, and for sophisticated radars to identify and track these targets with their much smaller and more challenging radar signature. As stealth technologies are becoming better understood, radar needs are also evolving, with greater interest in UHF/L-band products than we have seen for some time. AESA technology is becoming mainstream, with a constant flow of new products reducing size and improving performance.
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?
On one hand, we are seeing tremendous activity in demand for steerable antenna arrays as we continually try to exponentially increase data throughputs. On the other, we are also seeing high levels of interest and activity in mm–wave bands up to 40 GHz, which we expect will have significant long term impact. Products for these frequencies are anything but a commodity… The design, manufacturing, interconnect and testing all represent real challenges that will drive upgrades in capital equipment and demand for new products. It’s a good time to be a microwave engineer!
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.
Well, any market that is a multi-billion dollar market will get the attention of all technologies. We specialize in RF and microwave applications. In most cases, the IoT revolves around the consumer, but significant revenue impact will be seen in the enterprises. There will be hundreds of thousands of products that will eventually be connected to the Internet. While we do not normally support high volume commodity items, these connections will need infrastructure and there will be specialty product niches as well—we will use our supplier’s disruptive technologies and engineered solutions capabilities to support this growth into the future.
MPD: In your opinion, what are the RF and microwave technologies to watch in 2017?
There really is a lot of development going on, though much of the excitement is around products that will not come to market in volume for another 2-4 years. 5G, UAVs, IOT are all exciting markets. The RF Energy Alliance could have tremendous impact in the future as we move towards more predominant use of RF and microwave for heating, not just in microwave ovens, but in many other applications.