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News Wrap Up for the Week of Sept 8

Key industry reports and many new company announcements this week

September 15, 2008
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While Hurricane's and the on-going US presidential election were vying for top spot among the news stories of this past week, happenings in the microwave technology world were much less tumulutous. most of what the Journal received over the wire concerned business news more so than new product updates. Perhaps most microwave component manufacturers are saving their big releases for European Microwave Week next month. Here is a re-cap of what news we did receive.

Both NEC (partnering with Telecom Italia) and Tektronix announced that they were establishing "centers of excellence". In the first of these unconnected announcements, NEC Corp. announced that it has agreed with Telecom Italia to cooperate on mutual development of global business, technologies and network improvement. The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) reached between the two companies included details on how the partnership may enable the Telecom Italia Group to capitalize on NEC’s leading broadband & wireless network technologies to provide consumers with the latest advanced services.

The MoU also outlines how NEC, as a strategic partner of Telecom Italia, will conduct demonstrations, interoperability testing, roadmap development and product optimization of broadband & wireless technologies and solutions at its Technical Excellence Centre to be established in Italy. The centre will provide valuable information on such technologies as WiMAX, Femtocell, FTTx, Microwave PDH/SDH radio systems and LTE, which may directly benefit Telecom Italia, its domestic affiliates and partners throughout the world.

The centre will also underscore both companies’ ongoing efforts to drive the development of modern networks. Furthermore, NEC will be able to demonstrate its service platform and NGN capabilities that have been cultivated in the Japanese market.

Also included among the collaboration’s benefits are the access Telecom Italia gains to present and future next generation service developments at NEC, and the Excellence Centre’s delivery of cutting-edge information on technologies and solutions that will serve customers in Italian, European and global markets alike.

The Tektronix announcement states their intention to open a series of Test and Measurement Centers of Excellence around the world equipped with state-of-the-art technology. Each center will be staffed by application engineers to consult with customers and demonstrate testing solutions for high speed serial data technologies like Serial ATA and DisplayPort. Initially, centers are planned for Santa Clara, California, Shanghai, China, Taipei, Taiwan, and Tokyo, Japan.

The centers target design engineers who are developing new high speed serial technologies such as Serial ATA Gen 3, PCI Express 2.0 and PCI Express 3.0, HDMI CTS1.3, and DisplayPort 1.1a, need to process large amounts of data with greater signaling complexities. Testing new devices employing these technologies is increasingly complex, requiring sophisticated test equipment like the Tektronix DSA70000 Series Real-Time Oscilloscope and associated probes and application software. Additioanlly, these centers are designed to facilitate demonstrations and presentations, the Centers of Excellence highlight advanced technologies to provide customers a firsthand experience of how Tektronix applications can work for them in the new digital world to improve their design efficiency.

This next news item really caught my attention on Thursday. Nuvotronics is a small business that was established by a group of seasoned high-tech entrepreneurs in June of 2008. Nuvotronics acquired the Rohm and Haas Microfabrication business in Blacksburg, VA this past July.Nuvotronics is a small business that was established by a group of seasoned high-tech entrepreneurs in June of 2008. Nuvotronics acquired the Rohm and Haas Microfabrication business in Blacksburg, VA this past July.

On Thursday, Nuvotronics announced that its PolyStrata™ Microfabrication process is now available for use in commercial markets including RF electronics, medical and biomedical, and sensing. This process, originally developed under DARPA grant funding, has never before been released for commercial availability.

The PolyStrata Microfabrication Technology provides a way of producing very small and complex 3D structures out of metal and plastic. It is a breakthrough scalable manufacturing platform that promises to provide a path for new microfabricated devices. Nuvotronics offers flexible rapid prototyping through multi-user fabrication runs with availability starting in the fourth quarter of this year.

This item caught my attention because I had met several folks from Rohm and Haas at IMS2007 in Hawaii and at that time I was shown material on the PolyStrata™ Microfabrication for the first time. This technology, with low loss, its light weight and capability of integrating a microwave or millimeter-wave system/sub-system in more efficient, compact ways seemed very intriguing and likely to gain much attention. Since then, the Journal has run a technical feature on this process ( February 2008: An Enabling New 3D Architecture for Microwave Components and Systems) and conducted an executive interview with the former head of the Rohm and Haas division, David Sherrer where this technology was commercialized. I am happy to hear that David will be at the helm of this new venture and we wish him and Nuvotronics the best of luck.

Partnerships and Acquisitions

Our friends at Terabeam/HXI, also known as the Harmonix Division of Terabeam Corp. will be getting new work badges as the company was sold by its parent company, Proxim Wireless, to Renaissance Electronics Corp. (REC) of Harvard, MA. Going forward, the new company name will be HXI LLC and HXI will be a wholly-owned subsidiary of REC. Proxim will retain the use of the Terabeam name and it will no longer be used by HXI. Note - we're not acutally sure the employees at Terabeam wear security badges, but it sounded good.

All management, engineering, technical, administrative and direct sales personnel have remained with HXI through the acquisition. HXI also retained all relevant intellectual property, patents and component/subsystems designs that they had previous to the acquisition. HXI will remain in the same facility and will have all the same contact information, with the exception of e-mail addresses and web site address. In short, HXI was sold as a completely intact company.

Skyworks Solutions Inc. and Ember, a leader in ZigBee® technology, announced that they are partnering to develop a portfolio of ZigBee front-end modules (FEM) targeting applications such as smart meters in energy management, home area networks (HAN) and industrial automation. ZigBee is a wireless network standard that solves the unique needs of remote monitoring and control, and sensor-network applications.

Skyworks’ partnership with Ember accelerates our efforts in the energy management industry by more than doubling our addressable market for front-end modules,” said Stan Swearingen, Skyworks’ vice president and general manager of Linear Products. “By integrating our front-end modules with Ember’s ZigBee silicon, we are offering our customers a high performance plug-and-play solution that is truly unmatched worldwide.”

“Ember and Skyworks are teaming together to create the industry’s first ZigBee FEM that dramatically reduces component size, cost and power consumption,” said Bob Gohn, Ember’s vice president of marketing. “We are making it easier than ever for our customers to deliver exceptional performance in their products across a wide range of ZigBee-based applications.”

Meanwhile, West Technology Research Solutions (WTRS) is forecasting the ZigBee/IEEE 802.15.4 market to grow at an annual rate of over 117 percent ─ from approximately 8.4 million units shipped in 2007 to as many as 516 million in 2012.

DragonWave Inc., a global supplier of next-generation point-to-point microwave radio systems, announced that Altitude Infrastructure, a subsidiary of Altitude Group, has selected DragonWave products to provide high capacity Ethernet backhaul as part of its rollout of WiMAX broadband services across France.

Altitude has pioneered WiMAX service introduction in France. Its first deployments took place in 2004. To date, DragonWave’s Ethernet backhaul solution has been selected for four regional deployments in the Département de la Haute Garonne, Département des Deux Sèvres, Département du Jura and Département des Pyrénées Atlantiques.

As WiMAX matures beyond the developmental stage, it is being selected as a legitimate broadband access option by more and more French customers. To accommodate this growth infrastructure required the highest performance IP backhaul solution available.” Fabrice Ballart, directeur général with Altitude Infrastructure stated that “A broad portfolio of frequency options provides the flexibility we need to introduce WiMAX in any region. Its superior payload-per-hertz efficiency means we can optimize our spectrum usage and overall backhaul investment without compromising the end user experience. These benefits have helped fuel our business and provide a better return on network investments.”

Customer uptake in Altitude Telecom’s services has intensified across business and residential markets. The operator recently announced it is accepting hundreds of new orders per month and this year plans to double the number of base stations in its WiMAX network to six hundred.

Altitude Infrastructure is deploying DragonWave's AirPair products operating in licensed frequencies between 6 and 38 GHz. These products ensure interference-free performance, ultra-low latency to support real-time services, and scaleable Ethernet connectivity up to 800 Mbps. Extremely easy to deploy and manage, DragonWave products come with a full suite of network management options, and can be engineered to provide 99.999 percent service availability.

The deployment expands DragonWave’s growing market presence in Europe. “Operators in more and more markets are validating our IP backhaul solutions as the state-of-the-art, high-capacity transport option for 3G and 4G base stations,” said Peter Allen, president and CEO of DragonWave. “We will continue to work closely with Altitude to assist in its expansion plans in France and with WiMAX operators throughout Europe and other international markets.”

Meanwhile, in the United States, 7 layers upgraded its Irvine test and service center with High Speed Uplink Packet Access (HSUPA) test capabilities from Rohde & Schwarz. 7 layers operates independent laboratories for wireless technologies, accredited in accordance to ISO 17025. By adding these new services to their already extensive test capabilities for the mobile industry, it will become the first independent laboratory in North America that can run the required HSUPA test cases locally.

HSUPA is a 3G mobile telephony protocol belonging to the HSPA family. This advanced technology facilitates more creative applications demanding high data throughput; for example, uploading multimedia data to the Internet and person-to-person gaming.

“2008 has seen a large increase in the number of HSUPA available devices and we expect this trend to continue, especially since more and more networks are now able to support the HSUPA technology”, said David Bissonette, vice president business development of 7 layers Inc. “Extending our laboratory capabilities with HSUPA services is a logical development regarding the way the market is taking to this new technology.”

“In order to make 7 layers Inc. capable to offer these new services we will upgrade their existing Rohde & Schwarz test equipment, the R&S CRTU-W’s, R&S TS8950W and R&S CRTU-RRM system”, said Michael Gieselman, US western region sales manager from Rohde & Schwarz. “We expect all test systems to be fully functional in Irvine by End of August.”

The 7 layers group has already gained experience with HSUPA testing and certification via their laboratory in Germany. By offering HSUPA services now also in the US, clients can benefit from these experiences and enjoy the convenience of local service at the same time.

Finally, Andrew, the CommScope Inc. division, has won a major contract to upgrade the existing communications infrastructure on one of Singapore’s Mass Rapid Transit rail lines to support a third generation wireless network – the first 3G service for an underground radio network in Singapore.

As part of this project, Andrew will work with IntraWave, the infrastructure service provider for commercial wireless services on the North East Line of Singapore’s MRT rail network. The existing communications infrastructure, which Andrew designed and was activated in 2002, supports only 2G mobile devices. This upgrade is designed to provide commuters with better overall wireless coverage and reception, as well as greater bandwidth and download speeds when using 3G mobile devices. The infrastructure upgrade will support the various 3G applications and services offered by the three local Singapore operators—SingTel Mobile, StarHub Mobile and MobileOne Network.

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