by Mike Lee, Vice President of Sales & Marketing, dB Control
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?
It’s like the Target slogan: “Expect More. Pay Less.” Customers want more without an increase in cost. In 2022, the three most pressing issues RF component vendors and system integrators will face are:
- Demands to constantly push the envelope of performance for any given technology (both TWT vacuum and solid state devices)
- Demands to shrink the footprint and efficiencies while increasing density, features, performance and functionality
- Demands to push the leading edge—and sometimes bleeding edge—of technology while increasing reliability
MPD: The commercial and defense satellite market is booming. Is your company reaping any revenue from this, or do you expect to?
Yes. dB Control is a key player in the defense satellite market because of our Ka- and Q-band capabilities. The Ka-band (27 to 40 GHz) makes it possible for focused spot beams to enable frequency reuse. This boosts satellite system capacity. And the Q-band (36 to 46 GHz) is used for secure Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) satellite-based military communications. It’s resistant to military jamming and will be integral to secure tactical communication—especially for machine-to-machine data exchange. These are applications in which dB Control is well versed. As a whole, the industry faces some inherent challenges in working with high frequencies—and there are many misconceptions as a result. Fortunately, dB Control thoroughly understands the SWaP-C (size, weight, power and cost) requirements of its customers. While some in the industry have tried to make SSPAs fit into high-frequency satellite applications, TWTs are still the smallest, most reliable and efficient output device. Despite U.S. government funding of GaN solid state solutions, GaN SSPAs remain premature and are subject to performance and efficiency limitations in higher frequency bands. For example, if a designer needs 100 Watts of output power to provide Continuous Wave for a Ka-band unit, multiple GaN devices must be combined. This doesn’t bode well for SWaP-C requirements and can also lead to other issues such as heat generation and life expectancy. Nothing compares to a TWT at present—and dB Control’s track record of compliance and reliability are proof of that.
MPD: The federal government has been pushing for rural broadband coverage for many years, yet not much has happened. What do you think it will take to actually make this happen?
The Federal Government needs to make the investment to provide broadband coverage for everyone, no matter their location. It boils down to the law of economics (and sometimes politics) to get things moving in the right direction. But that’s easier said than done. Balancing the federal budget leaves little left to fund extra projects—especially when feeding rural Americans takes priority over feeding them broadband access. There’s also the ongoing challenge to upgrade aging infrastructures and roads. So the goal of rural broadband coverage could sink even lower on the list of priorities.
MPD: 5G simply won’t meet its promises without millimeterWave deployment, which is obviously incredibly challenging. What are your thoughts on the best ways to realize this?
The 5G revolution promises higher speeds, lower latency and higher capacity for more bandwidth. We see opportunities to support the 5G backhaul due to the need for higher power at millimeterWave bands above 60 GHz. And we’re making good progress. Currently, dB Control’s mmWave high-power amplifiers reach the 45.5 GHz range. And we’re actively working with sources up to 92 GHz to support 5G worldwide. Internally, we have a roadmap for how we’ll continue to support and define the 5G network ,either directly at the towers or through our backhaul hardware. As for the smart algorithm, software, channel management, signal and frequency timing, we’ll leave that to the mobile networking specialists.