by Joel Levine, President, RFMW
MPD: The commercial and defense satellite market is booming. Is your company reaping any revenue from this, or do you expect to?
RFMW has been focused on selling into the defense satellite market since our inception. Our suppliers have been developing and improving products for all the key frequency bands that satellite technology depends upon. We’ve had a concerted effort and focus on the latest evolution of commercial small sat and LEO satellites for over 10 years and have seen increased interest in designs with commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) products. RFMW has multiple suppliers for both active and passive devices supporting SWaP-C (Size, Weight and Power – Cost), which is exceedingly important in the satellite market. Some of our suppliers focusing on SWaP-C are Qorvo, Knowles Precision Devices, pSemi, Smiths Interconnect, Nuvotronics, and Marki Microwave. In addition to their solutions, there’s a need for high reliability RF devices in satellites and launch vehicle telemetry, where oscillator products from SiTime are engineered for harsh environments with features such as ultra-low 0.1 ppb/g acceleration sensitivity, 10,000g shock, and 70g vibration resistance, yet still fall into the COTS category.
Due to RFMW’s specialization with these RF and Microwave technologies, suppliers and products, we continue to be a go-to distributor for engineered solutions in RF power, filtering, timing and coaxial test and measurement components for labs and design work for all applications, including SATCOM, Infrastructure, and Mil Aero.
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?
To realize the promise of 5G technology, the requirements of higher data rates and increased capacity dictate much higher bandwidth requirements than what’s available from traditional wireless backhaul frequency bands between 6 and 42 GHz. As your question implies, achieving the additional bandwidth required will necessitate improvements in millimeterWave band technology and access, which is particularly effective in urban environments where link distances are relatively short. 5G networks using spectrum at 26, 28 or 39 GHz provide very high capacity backhaul (≥ 10 Gbps) needed with transport link lengths less than 1 km. Successful 5G deployments would enable simultaneous streaming of multiple 4K videos with improved reliability and without buffering or lag, opening the door for high-bandwidth products and services such as live-streaming virtual reality sporting events, self-driving cars, augmented reality (AR) and even remote medical operations and triage.
Referencing your first question, many of the technologies being developed for mmWave satellites also translate to mmWave 5G in that beamforming and the multiple elements needed for antenna deployment benefit from SWaP-C technologies. Hence, the same technologically advanced suppliers are solving the challenges of mmWave 5G radio. And not all mmWave 5G solutions are mmWave. For example, highly accurate timing sources are critical for these radios. MEMS based oscillators from SiTime, operating in the 1 to 110 MHz region, offer solutions independent of crystal based products that have recently been difficult to source. Also, devices are now plentiful for intermediate frequencies (IF) needed for conversion of mmWave frequencies to baseband where data and intelligence are extracted. To summarize, solutions exist for these new technologies. Leveraging applications over multiple markets will increase the volume of devices used and thereby reduce associated costs—a benefit to all end-product companies.