In the microwave component business it is easy to develop myopic vision. A product marketing manager looking to win business may rightfully need to obsess over his device’s phase noise, efficiency or support for some new standard. Often missing is the larger view of the wireless eco-system at work; the one that is driving the requirements for performance, size and cost. Last month, I got to spend some time with this larger entity, represented at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona, Spain. What I experienced represents very real opportunities for quite a few companies within our community.

This event, the world’s premier gathering dedicated to mobile technology, was incredible on two levels. First, there was the opportunity to witness impressive new technology for the first time (possibly several years before most people will get the chance). On display were devices and networks that will fundamentally alter how people get their information, entertainment and communications.

Have you ever heard anyone say that there hasn’t been a significant new technology since the internet or the cell phone? Well, consider the impact of mobile internet connectivity. Compare how you used the internet today versus ten years ago and I think you get the sense of how much more our cell phone is capable of. Imagine downloading streaming videos off the web and onto your portable device, anywhere you go with minimal latency. That’s where 4G networks are taking us. Such capability will alter everything from social media to potential advertising opportunities. Understandably, such opportunities are attracting a lot of money and attention. How much attention? Eric Schmidt, Chairman/CEO of Google, was among the keynote speakers, talking to a standing room only crowd. Google recognizes the potential of a mobile platform.

While many at MWC were paying considerable attention to the latest “apps”, it was these apps and the iPhones (or more generic smartphones) that provided me with a second reason to get excited. It wasn’t the apps or the smartphones themselves, but rather how these bandwidth-hungry smartphones were affecting networks around the world. Apparently, the popularity of smartphones is leading to a real capacity crunch for most networks. This, in turn, is a problem that is well suited to a variety of microwave solutions.

Every aspect of mobile internet connectivity is being impacted by straining capacity, from the mobile device (with MIMO antennas, multi-band/mode PAs, switch modules, FEMS, etc.) to the tower (base station PA linearity, new remote radio head solutions, rugged cable solutions, etc.) to microwave backhaul. Test and measurement vendors were addressing plenty of opportunities at the phone level (compliance and protocol testing) and the network level (MIMO over-the-air (OTA) testing, channel/fading emulation, multiple UE emulation). The microwave companies that I met with were engaged in test & measurement, RFICs, cables, backhaul equipment, and adaptive antennas. My take-away, there are many promising opportunities on the near horizon. Based on this event, it's time to get busy marketing your products!