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News Wrap Up for the Week of Sept 15

September 15, 2008
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The week starting September 15th will no doubt go down in history for the global turmoil set off by the near meltdown in the financial markets following the demise of investment banks Lehman Brothers (declaring bankruptcy), Merrill Lynch (selling itself to Bank of America) and precipitous plunge in stock price of Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley as well as insurance giant AIG. Markets worldwide seemed to be in free fall. By mid-week the US government had stepped in to rescue AIG with an $85B loan and was looking into a broader fix to stabilize the crisis. This news was hard to miss.

Amid the rash of bad news emanating from Wall Street, investors could have yet another setback to stew over. Technology stocks, once a haven from the storms roiling the financial sector, again are vulnerable. For much of the past year, investors have considered technology companies something of a safe harbor from the credit crunch and the soaring price of oil and other commodities. As the crisis worsened, tech companies' values were boosted (BusinessWeek, 9/10/07) by their stores of cash, paucity of debt, and substantial overseas sales that benefited from a weak dollar. Yet a rally by the dollar since mid-July is quickly erasing currency gains at many tech outfits, while layoffs, tight access to credit, and slumping profits exact an even greater toll on companies' IT budgets. As a result, the argument for buying tech stocks is getting thinner, according to analysts.

That said, technology stocks surged in late trading Thursday, lifted by a broad market rally that was triggered by hope regulators would step in to help solve the credit crunch and after a range of actions to curb short selling. The Nasdaq Composite Index, home to many leading tech stocks, rose more than 100 points to 2,199 after falling 85 points, or almost 5%, Wednesday.

Nothing coming across our desks this week reflected the colossal news coming out of Wall Street, which may be just as well. We did receive news on a new report on the role of Picocells and Femtocells in the initial LET architecture roll-out, a report on the world’s mobile infrastructure market and a report on RFID adoption across a broad range of verticals (all three reports from ABI Research) Other news concerned partnerships (AWR and Mentor Graphics, RMI and CSR, SiGe Semi), new products and more.

Market Reports

From ABI Research came three market reports. The first “Picocells and Femtocells Part of Initial LTE Architecture” claims that it is likely that femtocells and picocells will form an integrated part of the initial rollouts of Long Term Evolution (LTE) networks.

These cellular mini-base stations, which offer improved wireless coverage indoors, have been generating considerable interest in mobile wireless markets, and according to senior analyst Nadine Manjaro, LTE deployment is expected to boost shipments and revenues. “In most parts of the world, LTE will be deployed using higher frequency bands. Higher frequencies penetrate structures less effectively than low frequencies, so femtocells and picocells offer an attractive way to compensate for lower indoor signal strength and provide LTE’s touted bandwidth. Our forecasts show an upswing in femtocell and picocell penetration that coincides with the expected LTE deployment timeframe.” In Europe and other regions, LTE will operate in the 2.6 GHz band, although in the US it will largely be found in 700 MHz range, and in China TD-LTE will be most likely be deployed in the 1880 to 1920 MHz and 2010 to 2025 MHz bands, so the need for femtocells may be considered less pressing in those areas.

In contrast to other 3G technologies that preceded the introduction of femtocells, when LTE arrives these products will have been available for some time, and will be included in the original planned LTE architecture. “We will see some macro network deployment of LTE,” says Manjaro, “but not to the same extent that we saw with previous technologies. I think a large portion of it will deployed via femto and picocells alone, with macro deployments following later.” Some observers even suggest that all LTE deployments will initially use femtocells alone. ABI has also stated that while Ericsson leads the world’s mobile infrastructure market, it faces stiff competition from Nokia Siemens Networks and Alcatel-Lucent as well as from some Asian vendors, especially a buoyant Huawei.

“As of 1Q 2008, Huawei owned almost 8 percent of the world’s cellular infrastructure market, compared to Ericsson at nearly 29 percent and Nokia Siemens at more than 23 percent,” said ABI Research senior analyst Nadine Manjaro. “But don’t be deceived by that disparity: Huawei is the vendor to watch, given its overall increase in market share over the last six quarters. And squarely in its sights is the number three vendor, Alcatel-Lucent, with a market share just over 13 percent.”

In the second quarter of 2008, Alcatel-Lucent suffered one of its worst quarters since its merger. During the first half of 2008, the company’s wireless infrastructure shipments decreased 63 percent compared to the second half of 2007. Two of its top customers in North America – Sprint and Verizon Wireless – completed EV-DO Rev A deployments, which led to decreased CDMA spending. Sprint alone reduced CAPEX by $1 B compared to 2Q 2007.

“China is the leading wireless market and its top three operators plan to spend close $80 B on infrastructure over the next three years,” continued Manjaro. “This, along with strong growth in India and Africa, might catapult Huawei into the lead within three to five years. At the very least, Ericsson is not likely to be in any kind of ‘comfort zone’ as it tries to face down the growing threat from the muscular Chinese giant.”

An online end-user survey recently completed by ABI Research has found that RFID is being used or evaluated for a growing number of applications across a wide range of vertical industry sectors. Over 180 organizations worldwide responded to the survey, providing a detailed picture of the current state of RFID adoption and identifying key markets trends, system requirements, expenditures and more.

According to ABI Research director Michael Liard, “The survey results validate ABI Research’s view that RFID opportunities are broad in today’s market. Virtually every economic sector and industry where data needs to be collected or objects need to be tracked holds the potential for RFID applications.”

End-user respondents cite the use and evaluation of RFID technology across multiple application segments, ranging from security-based applications to supply chain management to multiple flavors of asset tracking and more. Organizations of all kinds are increasingly using and evaluating RFID systems to improve the tracking of objects, assets, goods, and materials within the “four walls”, in yards and campuses, open loop environments and beyond.

Liard continues, “The research also reveals that end-users are looking for a total solution. This requirement is leading large percentages of users to secure their systems direct from RFID manufacturers as well as from systems integrators that can provide all solution components via a partner network.” The results reveal that respondents feel these vendors and integrators have a deeper understanding of RFID technology, as well as vertical and/or application market specialization.

Partnerships

On the partnership/new customer front, Agilent Technologies Inc. announced that ST Microelectronics has selected Agilent's physical layer sink test solution to test its devices according to the MIPI D-PHY standard. This test setup provides the industry's first and complete automated physical layer receiver and transmitter tests, and also speeds up and simplifies test. Agilent's solution passed ST Microelectronics' rigorous evaluation process, which focused on test capabilities and the amount of automation provided. The main components of the solution ST Microelectronics selected include the Agilent ParBERT 81250A as generator, an Infiniium 90000A Series oscilloscope, a 81150A pulse function arbitrary noise generator as noise source and the N5990A test automation software platform.

RMI Corp., a provider of high-performance processors for communication and media, has increased its partner alliance members to include CSR and SiGe Semiconductor. These new partners were selected to work with RMI to deliver a low cost GPS implementation in RMI's mPND reference solution, recently announced at IBC 2008 in Amsterdam.

RMI's mPND reference design is based on its Alchemy™ Au1250™ and Au1210™ media processors making it well positioned to enable the fast, easy design of new feature-rich portable media products. Already in high-volume production and shipping into multi-function, media-capable navigation devices, these innovative RMI Alchemy Processors enable playback of video at full-frame-rate speeds and deliver DVD-quality video and dynamic audio without the need to transcode.

The mPND reference design from RMI implements the lowest cost alternatives to replace expensive GPS modules. The Au1250 media processor provides ample processing headroom to perform the complex baseband function in software, removing the need for external hardware. RMI works closely with its newest partners, leading GPS suppliers, to extend the spectrum of cost-optimized choices for the mPND designer.

•CSR provides a highly optimized software GPS (E5000) application, where the baseband function is implemented in software.

•SiGe Semiconductor provides the GPS radio solution to accompany the Au1250 processor in the software GPS implementation.

For its mPND reference design, RMI selected the E5000 software solution from CSR, a leader in software GPS technology. The CSR implementation enables the low cost GPS design by elimination of hardware GPS logic and leverages the processing capability of the RMI Alchemy processor. RMI also selected to partner with SiGe Semiconductor, a leader in innovative radio frequency (RF) solutions for next-generation wireless applications including voice, data and video. The SiGe 4120 is used to enable its Alchemy-based™ Media Portable Navigation Device (mPND™) solution.

AWR and Mentor Graphics® Corp. announced AWR Connected™ for Mentor Graphics. This new synergy of design flow between AWR and Mentor Graphics obsoletes file translation between Mentor Graphics' Expedition Enterprise design environment and AWR's Microwave Office® microwave and RF design environment. The resulting design and simulation solution allows PCB designers to more easily integrate analog, digital and RF or microwave circuits on the same PCB. AWR Connected for Mentor Graphics Expedition eliminates file translation and reduces the time to move from one tool/environment to another to nearly zero.

Library data for all design components is continuously synchronized between the Expedition Enterprise parts library and AWR Design Environment™ for microstrip, stripline and copper components. Circuit and electromagnetic (EM) simulation is available on demand throughout the flow regardless of which tool is being used to view or manipulate the design. The combined tools transfer not just tool data but messages as well, so that EM analysis and circuit simulation can be performed in Microwave Office software from Mentor's tools either on the same computer or across a network or Internet. Multiple Microwave Office projects can also be simultaneously connected to the same Mentor PCB design, allowing design partitioning across the toolsets.

IET Labs Inc., a manufacturer of manual and programmable standards, substituters and instruments for calibration, test, measurement and metrology applications, announced a new exclusive government services partnership agreement with Technical Communities, a service provider for technical organizations that sells to US government agencies, military organizations and prime federal contractors. The agreement authorizes Technical Communities to provide IET Lab products, including capacitance decade box, precision variable capacitor, megohmmeters, capacitance resistance and voltage standards.

IET Labs products are under General Services Administration (GSA) Multiple Award Schedules (MAS) managed by Technical Communities, which will provide content, transaction, marketing, sales support and reporting services around them. Technical Communities also will provide presentation and order processing through the GSA’s e-commerce web site, www.gsaadvantage.com, and the company’s own online marketplaces.

Contracts

Micro Systems Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Herley Industries, has received an order in excess of $1.9 M from a major defense prime contractor for C-band Radar Tracking Transponders used to track high performance missiles.

Dale Gates, vice president of business development for Micro Systems, said, "This award demonstrates the customer's confidence in the proven performance, quality and reliability of our products. This contract is a continuation of several years of production, and we expect to receive additional production lots in the next few years."

Milestones & Personnel

Radio Waves Inc. is celebrating its 25th anniversary. The company has been designing and manufacturing high quality microwave antennas for 25 years and proudly building these antennas in Billerica, MA. When asked about his company’s 25th anniversary, Andy Singer, president of Radio Waves, said, “It is the quality and talent of our work force that allows us to stay competitive and provide the highest quality, best performing microwave antennas available over these past 25 years and in the future. In appreciation of our loyal customers over these 25 years, Radio Waves will be offering customers special promotions during the month of October.

ProVision Communications, a wireless video and RF network planning company, has announced the appointment of former Lucent EMEA chief executive David Rogers as its new chairman. The appointment comes at a strategic time for Bristol, UK-based ProVision as it is rapidly developing its business to take advantage of new market opportunities for wireless video.

Rogers has held a number of senior positions in the broadcast and consumer electronics industry, including those of CEO of Amstrad, vice president, Philips Consumer Communications, and president and CEO EMEA of Lucent Technologies. He was the founding chairman and CEO of BluArc Inc., and is also chairman of Mirifice Ltd.

In order to develop and market MicroLap and other innovative high frequency technology inventions worldwide, Prof. Heuermann has founded Heuermann HF-Technik GmbH (HHF), a spin-off of the Aachen University of Applied Sciences. Prof. Heuermann and colleagues Dipl.-Ing. Kai Hanisch and Dipl.-Ing. Kokulathasan Thalayasingam, who will also be working for HHF, are all members of the University’s Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Information Technology.

The focus of the company is the planning, development, manufacture and delivery of services for information, communication, plasma and microwave technology systems. In addition to manufacturing standard products, HHF develops and builds special-purpose and customized products tailored to clients’ specific requirements.

Products

Anritsu Co. introduces the ML2480B series wideband peak power meters that combine wide 20 MHz bandwidth and 64 MS/s sampling rate that allow the instruments to conduct highly accurate peak power measurements on next-generation wireless and military communications signals. The new power meters provide best-in-class performance and ease of use, which make them well suited for evaluating chipsets, modules, handsets, customer premise equipment (CPE) and base stations during R&D and manufacturing.

There are two power meters in the series, both of which are designed to measure average power, peak power and crest factor, as well as provide statistical analysis of complex modulated signals. The ML2487B supports single sensor input while the ML2488B supports dual sensor inputs. The dual-channel sensor input and display of the ML2488B allow for the simultaneous monitoring of WLAN and Bluetooth®–enabled devices, and provides critical testing for the co-existence of multiple standards.

Featuring best-in-class 20 MHz video bandwidth, the ML2480B series is well suited for both present and future testing requirements. The wide video bandwidth enables high accuracy peak power measurements to be made on the most demanding power envelope conditions. The ML2480B series has been designed with a number of features to make measurements easier, including an Ethernet remote control interface, preset of 18 popular predefined and configurable measurements, and an external video port that supports LCD and CRT monitors for easier viewing of results. The incorporation of the popular Ethernet interface makes it easy to integrate the power meters into PC-centric ATE racks that need to be controlled remotely via a LAN.

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