by Brandon Malatest, COO & co-founder, Per Vices
MPD: As RF/microwave system complexities grow across many industries (from smart cars to smart cities), what are the biggest challenges RF component vendors and system integrators should expect to face in the coming year?
Two of the largest challenges that RF component vendors and system integrators will face in the upcoming year are 1) designing high enough performance components or systems to meet the evolving needs of markets using RF systems, and 2) long lead times due to complexities with supply chain.
RF/microwave systems have been in use by a variety of industries and markets for many years, but the demand on performance has increased dramatically and will continue to do so in the next year. More flexible systems are now required and all industries are in need of wider tuning ranges, more channels, and increased RF bandwidth, which in turn requires an increase in digital throughput as well. Luckily, software defined radio (SDR) systems have presented themselves as the solution to these challenges by incorporating the newest and highest performing ICs being made by RF/microwave component manufacturers. You will start to see extensions in the tuning range of these systems (currently the highest performing systems tune from near DC to 18 GHz but there is a high likelihood that this will be extended further). Concurrently, there is expected to be an increase in the number of channels and bandwidth per channel where the state of the art has already increased from 1 GHz bandwidth per channel to 3 GHz per channel.
The other large challenge vendors and integrators will face is the continuation of the supply chain backlog that’s been sending a ripple of delays throughout industries worldwide. With companies unable to get parts and components from their suppliers, the delays get passed onto the customers, delaying projects and the implementation of critical infrastructure to meet deadlines and targets. Diligent communication between all parties, transparency, and forecasting for all scenarios is necessary to mitigate the risks and to be able to proactively source necessary components to keep production moving.
MPD: The commercial and defense satellite market is booming. Is your company reaping any revenue from this, or do you expect to?
There has definitely been an uptick in interest in software defined radios for satellite applications, as they have become an integral component in communications, navigation, and aerospace applications due to their flexibility, performance, and processing capabilities. SDRs have the majority of the processing and applications done in software—and it’s much easier to update software via uplink communication than physically swap out hardware that’s orbiting out in space. The cost benefits and the longevity of the SDRs make them a more attractive and economical investment, and with SDR technology now capable of delivering on the required specifications, there are numerous projects from organizations such as NASA and OCCAR (European Intergovernmental Organization for Joint Armament Cooperation) in development. Our products are used in a variety of different markets and satellites and ground stations are included in that list. The customers we have benefit from the very high bandwidth per radio chain, the flexible number of radio chains, and the wide tuning range. We also offer different optimizations for satellite deployments which help reduce the size, weight and power of our listed radio platforms. Our products are well suited for both the satellite and the ground stations. For example, our Cyan SDR offers 16 independent channels and has the specs and reliability needed for mission critical applications. Offering adjustable channel bandwidths, wide band operation, and high digital throughput, our products can be tuned to multiple constellations at a time while minimizing adjacent channel rejection and enabling different protocols and (de)modulation schemes to be utilized.