SIAE Microelettronica: Microwave Radio Systems on a Global Scale
Paolo Galbiati is a Senior Product Line Director with extensive experience in the telecommunication field. He has a solid technical background and experience built during his employment at Siemens as ASIC Designer, Alcatel as Product Marketing Manager and Alcatel-Lucent as Head of Product Management for Microwave Products. Galbiati is now responsible for all SIAE Microelettronica product lines and portfolio strategy.
MWJ – Edoardo Mascetti founded Società Italiana Apparecchiature Elettroniche (SIAE) Microelettronica in Milan in 1952. Please give a brief history of the company’s development from the 1950s up to today.
PG – SIAE Microelettronica was founded in 1952, producing television transceivers and analogue multiplexers and since then we have made tremendous progress. In the ’70s we launched UHF radios that became digital microwave systems and in the ’80s, together with digital multiplexers and related network management systems we addressed the European market. In the ’90s we introduced high capacity microwave systems that drove today’s high capacity carrier Ethernet solutions that are deployed worldwide.
With a strong focus on customers the company grew from the Italian market, to the European scene, and subsequently to be global, with progressive organic growth. SIAE Microelettronica has always looked forward and developed healthy, long lasting business and customer relationships. These have always been the key drivers. Thanks to this approach we have been active in the telecom market for 60 years, establishing ourselves as trusted partners and preferred vendors to many multinational mobile operators.
MWJ – With the explosion of the IP market around the turn of this century SIAE Microelettronica established itself as a global supplier to Telecom Groups. What prime factors enabled the company to do so?
PG – SIAE Microelettronica has always worked closely with its customers to understand and help them reach their transmission goals. This has been the prime factor. Many believe that small companies are bound to be “followers” of the big multinational companies in terms of strategy and technology choices. SIAE Microelettronica has shown this is not always the way.
Let me give a couple of examples. We launched one of the first full outdoor solutions on the market and today with the advent of Ethernet this segment is constantly growing. Also, we were the first vendor to launch a system utilising a 1024QAM modulation scheme in the market place, boosting the transport capacity in microwave systems. Data generated by 3G/HSDPA and LTE deployments are a contributing factor driving the market for higher capacity transmission.
MWJ – The telecom market has been notoriously fickle in recent years. What is SIAE Microelettronica’s recipe for success that made the company flourish in these years when others have fallen by the wayside?
PG – SIAE Microelettronica’s business approach is based on three major points:
Customer satisfaction, long term stability and profitability and protection of its know-how by insourcing key developments. While these may appear to be a common vision for any company, in SIAE Microelettronica’s case these represent a winning strategy that has made the company profitable, continuously growing and recognized in the industry.
We believe that long term stability is more important than the three month profitability check that seems to be driving many company’s strategic decisions, which favour short term opportunities at the expense of long term business. Working close to customers with common goals provides a good position to navigate in a market subject to technology bubbles that can bring unexpected and rapid changes of direction. Receiving awards and recognition from our customers in acknowledgment of our efforts is true confirmation of the successful execution of our strategy.
SIAE Microelettronica believes that its know-how is a key differentiator, a value to defend and foster. We insourced many activities that other vendors have outsourced, relying on third parties to build key components with quality and timely reaction to market changes. For instance we own clean rooms to manufacture RF components whose design is licensed to component’s suppliers. There is a good chance that those vendors who outsourced RF component production may be acquiring and mounting SIAE Microelettronica’s designed components in their products!
Darwin said that the species that survives is the one that is the most adaptable to change. We believe it represents a good ethos for addressing a fickle, and fast changing market.
MWJ – In 2012 alone SIAE Microelettronica opened new offices in Peru (April), Dubai (April) and Rochester, USA (September). Is this expansion set to continue in 2013 and where do you see new markets opening up for the company?
PG – These three new offices are a great achievement, with the Rochester one we have made our first step into a new market. In 2013 we will continue investing in these three locations to make them as successful as the others. As far as North America is concerned, we look forward to demonstrating SIAE Microelettronica’s quality and commitment to customer satisfaction there as we have done in other markets.
MWJ – Please focus on the technological development of the licensed radio products that the company produces?
PG – Licensed microwave products up to 42 GHz represent a consolidated segment where SIAE Microelettronicais continuously investing. Major developments in this area include further enhancement of spectral efficiency through modulation schemes up to 2048QAM and MIMO technology optimized for LoS operations.
Circuit integration and reduction of power consumption represents another area of continuous improvement with developments focused especially on new generation RFIC component design.
MWJ – The Product Feature in the January issue of Microwave Journal described the ALFOPlus80 FDD radio. Explain the significance of this product?
PG – The ALFOPlus80 is the latest addition to our portfolio. With LTE and the increasing emphasis on small cells and C-RAN topology we see an ever-growing need to provide new and innovative solutions to the market to address our customers’ needs. With this product we are able to offer high data rate solutions for data transmission.
The 80 GHz technology has not yet reached the end of its development and this year we will advance further. Today’s technology provides 2.5 Gbps, in the future it will provide up to 10 Gbps, addressing fibre-like applications.
MWJ – Looking forward what specific new technologies/products is the company developing?
PG – In house development of components for our millimetre-wave solutions is currently one area where the company is investing significantly. These developments include RFIC, RF passive components and modem technology for our 80 GHz and 60 GHz product lines.
On the digital front, enhancement of networking capabilities of our platforms is another important development, including carrier Ethernet and MPLS solutions
MWJ – How important is quality to SIAE Microelettronica, both in terms of product and its acceptance in international markets?
PG – Quality is everything. It is clear that in such a high pressure market where pricing seems to be the only consideration, at times all other values seem to have lesser importance. However, at, SIAE Microelettronica we believe that gaining customer trust is more important in the long run and satisfactory for both parties, rather than winning one bid as the cheapest bidder. We offer our customers a solution that is equally satisfactory, both economically and technically, and not limited to one deployment, but that can act as the basis for recurrent and future business, creating a reciprocal environment of trust. Finally jumping from vendor to vendor every other bid has its costs too.
Furthermore, considering the trend of growing volumes associated to price pressure makes the need for high quality products even more imperative. The cost of repair and maintenance would be significant and the damage to the customer would undermine the trust and satisfaction SIAE Microelettronica has established by providing valued offerings.
Our long lasting presence is testament to our success and customer recognition of our solutions is proof of this.
MWJ – As well as the development of products how important is it for SIAE Microelettronicato also provide turnkey solutions?
PG – Turnkey solutions are more and more a mandatory requirement from our customers. The vast majority of our business is characterized by equipment and services delivered as a single package. Our services are recognized by our customers as being of great value and they represent a significant part of our revenue. On several occasions SIAE Microelettronicahas accrued business by selling services only, because we are recognized as having specialized know how in this field. We believe this trend will continue to grow in the future.
MWJ – What do you see as the challenges facing the company both technologically and in business terms in the next few years?
PG – The microwave market has always been fragmented, characterized by many players and consequently it is difficult to gain market share. Regularly we see small companies appearing offering new technologies that are often too early to market and technically lacking. On the other hand, we also see a trend from the general vendors who are rationalizing their portfolio by focusing on limited technologies, usually at the expense of microwave technology. Therefore, both opportunities and challenges are present for technology specialists like SIAE Microelettronica. As has been mentioned, in2012 we expanded our footprint with three new branch offices and we want to make them successful in their respective local markets in 2013 and beyond.