Dr. Douglas Carlson, Senior Vice President and General Manager, RF & Microwave, MACOM
MPD: Millimeter wave frequencies will be used for cellular communications for the first time in 5G. What challenges and opportunities does this present for the microwave industry?
With 5G, we are seeing the opportunity to move the use of millimeter wave spectrum to the edge of the network. Opening this spectrum provides the opportunity for vastly expanded bandwidth coupled with its associated increase in data rate.
Millimeter wave 5G applications offer the potential for explosive growth in a frequency domain which historically has been relegated to relatively niche applications, and making this a reality will drive many innovations. While certainly millimeter wave is playing a role in the “last mile” fixed wireless access today, to support mobile applications a number of challenges must be overcome in both the handset and the base station markets. These challenges include thermal design, packaging, and basic architectural approaches to realize cost effective active antenna solutions at these frequencies. At MACOM, our expertise in traditional millimeter wave markets and extensive thermal modeling capabilities, coupled with unique semiconductor processes and packaging approaches, gives us a deterministic roadmap to advance this market.
MPD: What RF and microwave technologies do you feel will have the greatest impact in our industry overall between now and 2020?
Over the past decade, we have heard the constant drumbeat of messaging concerning the transformational potential of Gallium Nitride (GaN) devices and how they have shattered previous boundaries of power, bandwidth and efficiency. Today, GaN has become a mainstream device technology penetrating many markets. As we look forward, GaN will continue to play a very transformational role, with increased integration for optimized solutions being the new mantra. Integration will take many forms, such as heterogeneous integration at the die and in the package to achieve optimized performance at new levels of SWAP-C. In addition, RF integration in silicon-based technologies will continue to proliferate in combination with increased digital content of RF front ends.
MPD: After years of hype and little to show for it, IoT networks are actually being deployed in a variety of applications. Do you believe IoT is a major opportunity for the RF and microwave industry? If so, why and if not, why not?
IoT is certainly driving the proliferation of RF devices in multiple applications, from our homes to our factories and everywhere in between. For MACOM, IoT is all about increased network traffic and driving the need for more bandwidth and capacity, thereby propelling opportunities in RF and beyond. This includes opportunities in both the RF and optical domains; whether the capture of signals from free space into the network or the transport of this information on the network or the manipulation of this information within data centers, this traffic is increasing the demand for MACOM’s unique combination of RF and optical products.
MPD: We believe that the defense industry will retain its crucial importance to the RF and microwave industry regardless of overall DoD budget constraints. Do you agree with this statement? Either way, please explain your reasoning.
The defense market remains an important part of the microwave industry. While defense agencies across the globe are facing budget pressures, the global reality is that there is a ubiquitous need for affordable, high performance sensing and communications systems in order for countries to maintain a viable defense in these challenging times. The RF content of these systems is increasing in both total part count and complexity. Multi-mission requirements such as the combination of sensing, communications and electronic defense are driving the RF industry to achieve new levels of performance — wider bandwidths and increased power. To achieve affordability, many defense systems are increasingly taking advantage of commercial practices and strategic partnering to lower the overall manufacturing cost while preserving performance. For MACOM, this market sector remains an important part of our portfolio and we believe the defense market will remain a major part of the RF and microwave market.