Penny Cotner, President and CEO, Infinite Electronics
MPD: The 2019 defense budget is chock full of EW, radar, and other programs with lots of RF and microwave content, so, if your company serves the defense market, what are your thoughts about how this will affect your business in the coming years?
The Department of Defense is undertaking the most extensive revitalization of its technology assets since the end of the Cold War. And as a large percentage of defense electronic systems require RF and microwave technologies for communications, electronic warfare, radar, or remote sensing, there will be ample opportunities for our industry.
For example, the Army is investing heavily in electronic warfare as adversaries demonstrate dramatic advances in this area. Legacy radar systems are being modernized and new ones developed, the remnants of the Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS) are being sorted out to produce viable networked battlefield communications, and the Next-Generation Jammer (NGJ) is inching closer to reality.
MPD: 5G is already generating revenue for some sectors of the RF and microwave industry, and this should increase next year. How do you think the implementation of 5G will affect business in the coming year?
The expansion of wireless services of all types is well underway, and there little to indicate this will soon change. Infinite Electronics closely tracks the interest in the product types sold through our expanding portfolio of brands, and it has proven valuable in predicting trends. For example, we’ve seen a sharp sales increase in certain types of components typically used in wireless infrastructure, and they run the gamut from cables, connectors and other passive components to amplifiers.
We’ve also noticed an uptick in components for frequencies that until recently weren’t widely used for wireless services such as 3.5 to 4 GHz, no doubt the result of the new Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS). One of the more exciting developments is greater interest in millimeter-Wave components, which is attributable to both commercial wireless and defense applications.
MPD: Overall, how would you compare the health of the industry compared with years past?
As you might suspect from my optimistic comments, I believe the RF and microwave industry is currently one of the most appealing sectors of the electronics industry. There are more applications than ever before, from the huge umbrella of IoT to defense, aerospace, public safety (FirstNet), fixed wireless access (the initial 5G application), CBRS, Wi-Fi, space, industrial and medical, and many others. Look back only a decade and some of these applications didn’t even exist, and they will take years to mature, providing a secure roadmap for the industry.
MPD: What RF and microwave technologies will be driving the industry in 2019?
It’s a long list, but some of the most noteworthy are MIMO and phased arrays that will help make terrestrial millimeter-Wave communication viable, small-cell base stations that will deliver gigabit-per-second data rates indoors and outdoors, and gallium nitride, whose full potential is far from being fully realized. Semiconductor technologies for higher millimeter-Wave frequencies at 60 GHz and perhaps higher are of interest to defense, commercial, and consumer sectors, as well. It’s also important to remember that all these systems must be tested throughout their development, which offers continuing (and challenging) opportunities for instrument manufacturers.