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Let the Sunshine In

May 8, 2014
KEYWORDS industry / microwave / tampa
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Another International Microwave Symposium is upon us and the pre-show industry activity suggests it will be a strong event. The exhibition is sold out and the Microwave Journal show issue is thick with editorial and advertisers’ product previews. Shortly our microwave week days will be filled with scheduled meetings from dawn to dusk. It’s great to work in an industry whose economic fortunes are linked to an eco-system as robust and long-term as the one driving global communication networks. This month’s issue celebrates both the IMS and the confluence of technologies that will enable the next generation of mobile communications known as 5G.

Since the wireless revolution of the 1990s, RF engineers have answered the call for higher data throughput with technology that delivers. With 5G visionaries setting a goal of a 1000× improvement over today’s capacity by the year 2020, I suspect microwave engineers will rise again to the occasion. This time, we may need to use all the tricks in the book, including those originally developed for high performance aerospace and defense applications. To be practical for the commercial world however, engineers will have to adapt high performance millimeter-wave technology to high volume production and find ways to lower device costs to be compatible with mass market products.

This past year, we have witnessed continued market shifts toward lower cost high performance RFICs with the release of major CMOS RF front end devices for cellular frequencies from Peregrine and Qualcomm. The announced merger of TriQuint and RFMD represents another market shift as these companies consolidate their individual strengths in GaAs PA, switch and filter technologies into one organization. This month’s cover feature by Anokiwave describing an approach to next generation communication devices based on active electronically steered antennas (AESA), operating at mm-wave frequencies using highly integrated silicon core chips represents another market shift, namely disruptive technology coming from smaller, early-start companies.

The UAV market is another promising area for microwave technology and one that Microwave Journal has been covering extensively throughout the past year. Specific to microwave technology development, roadmaps for future UAV systems call for next generation multi-focused, super-cooled, conformal antenna systems. In addition to high gain, rugged and low cost multidirectional (phased array) antennas, component manufacturers will need to develop smaller, lighter weight filter solutions for co-site interference mitigation and high efficiency GaN SSPAs for transmitter and receiver systems.

The satellite industry is another promising sector for the microwave industry with high-capacity Ka-Band platforms gaining a lot of interest this year. Florida, the location of IMS 2014, has a long history with the space program. As a result, the state is home to a number of microwave passive component and cable manufacturers.

Trak Microwave began in 1960 when Trak Electronics opened a branch in Tampa. The company, which specialized in ferrite-based products (circulators and isolators), eventually absorbed St. Petersburg based Geo-Space Corp. (among several acquisitions). Logus provides coaxial and waveguide switches to the satellite industry as does Electro Technik Industries (ETI), a Tampa Bay area manufacturer that owns and operates several subsidiary companies (RES-NET, Nova Microwave, Star Microwave and Wavetronix Corp.) in the passive electronic components field. Other Florida luminaries include SV Microwave, EMC/Florida RF Labs, SGMC Microwave, API Tech and Harris Corp., to name a few.

It was a brutally cold winter, the West Coast experienced one of its worst droughts ever, the Winter Olympics in Sochi had unseasonably high temperatures, ice caps are melting and super storms have become commonplace. The extreme weather predicted by climate scientists and attributed to the build-up of greenhouse gases is increasingly becoming a reality. Addressing this problem is an opportunity for businesses and engineers. Microwave technology consumes the energy linked to the production of greenhouse gases.

As we head down to the Sunshine State, I believe it is a worthy goal for our industry to develop solutions that consume less energy. Reducing energy use is called for in the 5G initiative, doing so makes our products more competitive, saves money for our telecom operator customers and will help keep Florida above water. See you in Tampa.

Recent Articles by David Vye, Editor, Microwave Journal

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