by Suja Ramnath, President and CEO, Integra Technologies
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?
Supply chain and staffing issues will be a major challenge for RF component vendors and system integrators in the coming year. The industry continues to be impacted by semiconductor shortages ranging from extended lead times from foundries to suppliers of components to product discontinuances. With supply disruptions, engineers are being deployed to find alternate sources or develop system work arounds. Additionally, the shortage of engineering talent has been further exacerbated by the pace of seasoned talent choosing to retire.
MPD: The commercial and defense satellite market is booming. Is your company reaping any revenue from this, or do you expect to?
Integra announced a partnership with Teledyne e2v HiRel in March of 2021. Together, Integra and e2V will offer high reliability options of Integra’s GaN on SiC power transistors and pallets for the LEO and GEO payload market as well as other defense satellite applications. The combination of Integra’s high performance RF GaN portfolio with e2v’s extensive expertise and multi-decade heritage providing space RF components will provide space payload engineers with state-of-the-art power devices for their applications. Integra extended the partnership to include our newly released state-of-the-art 100V RF GaN platform.
We expect Integra and e2V to benefit greatly from this partnership. Recognizing the acceleration of satellite applications in the military domain is often at odds with budgetary constraints, we are encouraged to see private and commercial entities can significantly reduce the cost of accessing space applications. These entities are focused on initiatives that accelerate innovation, reduce cost and increase the speed of development. Integra’s 100V RF GaN will give payload system designers the ability to dramatically increase system power levels and functionality while simplifying system architectures with less power combining circuitry compared to the commonplace 50V and 65V, allowing the system architect to reduce the HPA size and weight between 30-50%.
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 business case and economics of rural broadband have always been a challenge with the push for rural broadband. This issue may finally be addressed with the passage of the Infrastructure bill which earmarks over $40 billion in grants to states for broadband projects, ranging from network deployment to digital inclusion and equity.
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?
There are many architectures and beam forming approaches being developed and tested today. The primary challenge is achieving the challenging performance specs at a lower cost. System cost is always an obstacle to wide scale adoption and deployment, so to achieve the full rollout of 5G, antenna systems and semiconductor costs need to be reduced. Highly integrated silicon solutions seem to be leading the way if they can meet the performance goals, but there are also some interesting other technologies such as III-V semiconductor, MEMS and meta-material approaches that could also open the door to lower costs in some scenarios.
While patch antennas are low cost, their performance is not as good as many other types of antennas, so there is a lot of activity in dielectric resonator designs that could increase gain and reduce costs if they can be realized in low cost materials and high volume manufacturing techniques. We are also still learning about the best way to configure mmWave nodes into the network with fixed wireless access cells, repeaters and even reflectors, so the industry needs to work out the best way to build low cost networks with many mmWave solutions. Many of these challenges will need to be overcome in the near future for successful deployment in 5G networks.