Dr. Karim Hamed, General Manager, Microwave Communications, Analog Devices, Inc.
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?
Analog Devices is witnessing the evolving nature of the defense market firsthand and through its broad RF and microwave product supplier capabilities, works to serve the similarly evolving needs of customers within the communications, military/aerospace & defense, test instrumentation and broad-based industrial and automotive wireless markets.
Specific to aerospace and defense, ADI is well-positioned with its investments in beamforming front-end ICs, microwave transceivers, low phase noise phase-locked loop/synthesizers, LNAs, PAs, SOI microwave switches and attenuators, and microwave power detectors. In addition, ADI supports the critical performance needs of both the EW and radars with class-leading direct RF converters. For example, our AD9213’s 12-bit, 10.25 Gsps A/D converter is capable of directly sampling wideband signals to 7 GHz. It features on-chip DSP facilities including digital downconverter, NCO, and decimator to extend its signal processing dynamic range. Complementing this is our AD9172, a dual-channel 16-bit 12.6 Gsps D/A converter with on-chip DSP and NCO facilities for aggregating multiple complex input channels for advanced radar applications.
ADI is deeply engaged in the defense sector, providing customers with breakthrough technologies that enable radical miniaturization of large phased arrays with integrated beamformer chips in X-band, Ka-, and Ku- bands. Higher frequency bands will be supported in the future. Moreover, innovation in architecture of RF and microwave transceivers greatly reduces power consumption, increased flexibility through software defined features, and vast improvements in packing density, hence its small size. These features provide significantly positive impacts in many defense systems including smart munitions applications. While geopolitical risks remain ever present, we are optimistic that ADI has a strong suite of products, technologies, and capabilities that differentiate us within the aerospace and defense market.
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?
2019 will be the year when we start seeing tangible 5G activity taking place, with the first commercial networks turning on and the first handsets hitting the market. However, like 4G, it will likely take several years from initial launch to reach a point where 5G is the dominant global technology. Yet given that there is a high level of momentum behind 5G on a global scale, and based on recent announcements from key industry players, it’s probable that several key milestones will be achieved along the path to 5G rollouts throughout next year.
By 2020, we should see commercial networks become available across several regions. Like previous generations, we will see some regions being early adopters and some following later on. Most critical to 5G success will be the availability of spectrum, whether it be low-, mid-, or high-band. To achieve widespread 5G deployment, we need new spectrum. As in previous generations, we will see network infrastructure coverage roll out first and then capacity layered on as demand builds. In sub 6 GHz we will see the coverage layer built on massive MIMO using existing infrastructure followed by densification. Small cell deployments will be more critical to 5G to take advantage of higher frequency spectrum. Overall, whether an operator capacity layer relies on massive MIMO, mmWave or small cells, 5G will be built on a proliferation of antennae which in turn drives a proliferation of radios.
In terms of addressing the needs of the 5G communications market, ADI is a strong player offering innovative single-chip transceivers not only for the sub-6 GHz mobile small cell and macrocell infrastructure segments, but also the 28 GHz, 38 GHz and up to 44 GHz microwave infrastructure platforms. For the sub-6 GHz segment, our new ADRV9009 and ADRV9008 family of 6 GHz transceiver ICs support TDD and FDD implementations, respectively. These transceivers include on-chip synchronization features that can be easily scaled for massively parallel MIMO systems with minimum external components. Additionally, their 200 MHz bandwidth enables the 5G requirements for multi-band spectrum aggregation. For the millimeterWave bands, ADI is launching a new family of high performance integrated transmitter/receiver solutions covering the 28 GHz, 38 GHz and 44 GHz 5G bands for multi-100Gbps services, addressing both front-haul and backhaul applications.
In addition, ADI offers the broadest range and most complete RF and microwave signal chain components. These include low noise amplifiers (LNA), RF power amplifiers (PA), mixers, microwave switches and attenuators, wideband PLL/synthesizers, and RF power detectors to support all 5G system needs.
Emerging 5G deployment represents a significant opportunity for all equipment providers and semiconductor suppliers alike. Our customers value ADI’s deep RF and microwave knowledge and expertise and are fully engaged with the technical support that is expected of ADI.
MPD: Overall, how would you compare the health of the industry compared with years past?
In terms of the wireless industry, ADI is optimistic about its outlook heading into 2019, despite specific challenges, including industry consolidation taking place over the past several years, both at the OEM manufacturers of wireless equipment and component suppliers levels. Overall, the industry is stronger and leaner because of these consolidations.
5G, still in its infancy, is poised to inject new business activities, excitement and growth into the industry. This is especially attractive given that 5G can enable many more IoT-based market opportunities, including farming automation, manufacturing automation, AI-driven analytics, real-time video feeds, and automotive ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance System) and communications.
The challenge for all tiers — from component suppliers to service providers alike — will be managing the costs and their respective business models. While 5G promises orders of magnitude improvement in data capacity, this comes at the expense of added equipment complexity and higher costs. Whether or not these costs can be offset by increased revenue from users remains to be determined. To address this, ADI is working hard to deliver strong value add with differentiated performance at a competitive price point.
MPD: What RF and microwave technologies will be driving the industry in 2019?
In looking ahead to 2019 and which specific RF and microwave technologies will be driving the industry, there are a few things to consider. First, technologies that have higher levels of integration and are flexible in architecture will likely be foremost in importance to many equipment manufacturers in order that costs can be kept under manageable levels. Allowing manufacturers to re-use much of the same hardware and software, as well as accumulated engineering knowledge across multiple platforms, helps to spread the risks and defray development costs advantageously. Following in importance is technology that allows for the realization of massively parallel MIMO implementation in an economical way while also achieving promised data capacity. Likewise, beamformer technology greatly extends the transmission range, allowing high-speed data services to scale more cost effectively. All of these technologies, in part or in combination, will serve as an important foundation for industry drivers not just in 2019, but also, 2020 and beyond.