by Liam Devlin, CEO, PRFI
MPD: How is your company addressing the many constraints that the pandemic has placed on business operations?
As a design house, a lot of the work we do can be carried out very effectively working remotely, and the commercial impact on the business has been minimal. At the start of lockdown in March, we set up the design team to allow them remote access to our office server and CAD system. With this in place, our design activity could continue uninterrupted.
Of course, we are often also involved in the evaluation of the MMICs and subsystems that we have developed for our clients, and this is much more difficult to do remotely. We have a system in place to rotate staff, allowing those needing to use the lab to come in to work while those who were working on design activities would work from home. We aim to keep occupancy levels to below 50% of normal, and so far this has worked very well.
MPD: The adoption of open architectures is accelerating in many markets, from wireless to defense. Do you feel your company and the RF and microwave industry as a whole benefit from this initiative?
The growth of open architectures is leading to an increase in the number of companies developing and supplying radio units (RUs) into the base station market. As a supplier of design services, the main impact to PRFI has been an increase in the number of potential customers. For the microwave industry as a whole, it offers an opportunity for smaller players and new entrants to compete with and/or supply to the established suppliers of base station hardware. It is likely to provide opportunities for innovation and increased competition, which should be beneficial for the industry as a whole.
MPD: Technologies such as direct RF sampling are reducing the number of analog components in receivers and, increasingly, transmitters as well. Do you feel that the “digitalization of RF” will have an impact on your business?
Yes, I think it will increase the need for our skills and our business opportunities. Higher rate digitization tends, in general, not to result in the direct digitization of an RF signal but rather in the ability to digitize wider bandwidth signals operating at higher data rates. As the march of 5G progresses and mass broadband communication moves to mmWave frequencies, the demand for PRFI’s design services grows. The panacea of an antenna followed directly by an ADC is still a work in progress.