Liam K. Griffin, President and CEO, Skyworks Solutions, Inc.
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?
The connected economy is gaining significant momentum and enhancing the way we live, work, play and educate. Ultimately, 5G technology and millimeter wave frequencies will unlock a massive swath of new spectrum for cellular communications, enabling up to 100x increases in speed and near zero latency with expanding network capacity.
The primary challenge with utilizing the millimeter wave spectrum is the path loss when compared to signals using spectrum below 6 GHz or in traditional cellular bands. In addition, generating millimeter wave signals and RF power is more difficult with today’s integrated circuit technologies and consequently, this leads to reduced battery life.
These dynamics involve a requisite increase in analog signal performance, enhanced power efficiency and integration capabilities. They also present tremendous opportunities for semiconductor companies who have the scale, technology and systems expertise to resolve increasing RF complexity with fully-integrated solutions.
MPD: What RF and microwave technologies do you feel will have the greatest impact in our industry overall between now and 2020?
We believe the movement toward higher frequency bands — between 2.7 and 6 GHz — for 5G cellular communications will have a tremendous impact on RF front-end complexity and the technologies utilized. The need for backward compatibility with 4G networks, the ability to address multiple carrier aggregation combinations as well as the integration of Wi-Fi, Bluetooth®, ZigBee® and other wireless communication protocols are creating a perfect storm of complexity that system integrators must navigate.
Meeting these design challenges will require new RF technologies to address signal transmission, conditioning, filtering, tuning, voltage regulation and battery-charging.
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?
The proliferation of the Internet of Things is transforming our lives and continues to provide significant opportunities for the RF and microwave industry. Wireless connections are at the core of this transformation and as demand grows for always-on connectivity within the home, car, medical devices and machine-to-machine applications, there is a commensurate level of analog and RF complexity to go along with it.
As a result, the industry can help simplify the design process for customers by offering fully-integrated RF solutions that are easy to deploy globally. In fact, Skyworks has been a leader in IoT commercialization efforts through the introduction of front-end solutions specifically designed for low power networks that enable connectivity across many fast-growing market segments.
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.
We expect the defense market will continue to provide ample opportunities for the RF industry. Through recent initiatives, the military is focused on reducing the size, weight and power of its platforms; creating the need for smaller, lighter devices that are modular, serve multiple purposes and are re-configurable. Consequently, we will see more of the defense budget driven toward solutions that offer differentiation through technology. These new solutions will support precision performance and faultless operation under the most extreme conditions, enabling avionics systems, electronic defense and countermeasure platforms, global positioning devices, and much more.