by Joel Levine, President, RFMW
MPD: How is your company addressing the many constraints that the pandemic has placed on business operations?
RFMW’s operations have been relatively unruffled from the pandemic constraints due to our geographically diversified workforce and global network backbone. We have a central location in North America housing logistics and warehouse operations as well as warehousing in Europe and Asia, to support global customers. Because RFMW operations were deemed “essential,” our warehouse operations never ceased and we’ve continued to support customers, albeit with some of our customer service and sales personnel working from home offices. On the sales front, most RFMW sales engineers use online meeting programs where design engineers can discuss and even display their products and schematics while working with field application engineers and device designers from our various suppliers. Although not a replacement for face-to-face meetings, online meetings with factory device designers are facilitating new design engineering. As a specialized distributor, RFMW coordinates these valuable meetings because we are part of the suppliers’ sales channel and part of a trusted team who understand the needs of the customer and the value of supplier team members.
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?
RFMW is actively supporting mil-aero companies with open architectures in communications and avionics. We’re looking forward to the implementation of O-RAN (Open Radio Access Network) in 5G infrastructure design and deployment. Open RAN will allow any radio vendor’s equipment to function on any part of a network, regardless of whose core is managing it. Many of our suppliers promote 5G solutions in their product portfolios with devices ranging from crystal and MEMS based oscillators to high power amplifiers and mmWave filters. Customers engaging with RFMW sales and customer service specialists have access to supplier resources and apps engineering along with samples and evaluation boards for devices we recommend for their designs. In addition to standard, off-the-shelf products, we also facilitate customer-specific requirements like filters with design specific center frequencies and bandwidths, and custom RF cable assemblies when needed.
Again, RFMW is actively engaged with many of the small cell manufacturers as well as macro-cell and backhaul equipment providers looking for “plug and play” interoperability that will allow them to sell into multiple carriers with minimal modifications and tech support. What this means for us and the industry is the need for more product availability and a pipeline to manufacturing as the number of radios increase. As a leading distributor of RF and microwave components, RFMW is well positioned to take advantage of this ramp up.
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?
Maybe, but this is a fairly new conversation that reminds me of an old conversation regarding the implementation of direct conversion receivers and IF filtering. Granted, many of the lower cost, discreet mixers have disappeared from the market to be replaced by direct conversion, highly integrated devices. However, some systems still require the performance advantage of discreet mixers and their peripheral components. And, as we look towards mmWave radios, there is still a need for down conversion to lower frequencies. In other words, a change certainly occurred, but the need for individual RF components didn’t go away, it just shifted focus. As carrier frequencies have increased in the search for greater bandwidth, what used to be a high frequency RF output carrier is now an IF stage in some platforms. RFMW has almost 80 RF and microwave component and subsystem suppliers offering the latest technology and advanced components for applications up and down the spectrum. We are well positioned to support current customer projects as well as future projects as technology advances.