John Greichen, VP Sales & Marketing, Custom MMIC
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?
U.S. defense expenditures have been significant for many years, and recent budget decisions have definitely increased activity. In addition, global defense spending is quite robust. The RF and microwave content for EW, radar and communication systems has increased, particularly as these applications embrace phased array technology. The performance requirements have always been challenging and keep increasing.
Custom MMIC has served the defense, aerospace and space markets for nearly 13 years now. Our constantly growing GaAs and GaN MMIC portfolio, now over 150 standard products, is targeted specifically at these markets. Our business is seeing positive effects from the robust defense spending. Custom MMIC is in the process of doubling the size of our corporate facilities to support both our staffing increases and the need for additional production capability.
Defense applications significantly influence our roadmaps. We visit defense and space customers regularly and listen carefully to their challenges and needs. We seek to understand their system-level requirements and design features into our products to help meet those requirements.
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?
5G remains the perennial potential large market. We are hopeful the limited rollouts to date broaden as the service providers figure out the 5G value equation. We do not expect a hockey-stick type of market development but foresee a slow, steady increase for 5G as it finds a way to mesh with the 4G infrastructure. Unique applications of 5G, such as Verizon’s 5G Home offering, may actually be where this emerging technology succeeds first.
MPD: Overall, how would you compare the health of the industry compared with years past?
The RF and microwave market remains very healthy and exciting. Strong program activity for traditional air, land and sea systems continues. Systems employing drones and UAVs are seeing significant funding as compared to years past. Another market segment with strong growth and global activity is the military and commercial space market. The potential creation of a fourth U.S. defense entity responsible for space is clear evidence of increased focus on “the final frontier.”
MPD: What RF and microwave technologies will be driving the industry in 2019?
The full range of CMOS, SiGe, GaAs and GaN processes will continue to battle it out to serve the defense and space system requirements. At Custom MMIC, we see both GaAs and GaN being strong technology options for radar, communications and space front ends. These III-IV technologies become attractive for more functions of the signal chain as the system frequencies continue to broaden and increase. GaAs remains a vital technology for space applications, given its high radiation tolerance.
Packaging technology is becoming more important to microwave implementations. Customers are seeking easy-to-manufacture MMIC solutions for 40 GHz and higher applications. Packaging of single MMICs or multiple MMICs is driving decreases in system size and weight. Custom MMIC is embracing new, innovative packages to utilize for high frequency devices currently offered in die only.