Microwave Journal
Predictions 2019

Industry Predictions for 2019

MWJ's Swami Hindle, Analog Devices and MathWorks give their predictions of things to come

December 5, 2018

Swami Hindle (aka Microwave Journal editor Pat Hindle) makes the following industry predictions for 2019:

  • Blockchain technology will be applied to 5G to achieve secure sharing for IoT devices
  • Industry 4.0 (IIoT) will become the hottest market in wireless and finally take off
  • The first remote surgery will be done over a 5G connection
  • Massive MIMO will create a large demand for cables and antennas with possible shortages
  • Samsung will be the first to market with full featured 5G cell phone in the US
  • Cloud-enabled simulation platforms will take hold powered by the AWS platform
  • Autonomous buses/taxis will be proto-typed in 2019 and ready for deployment soon after
  • Commercial phased array antennas will be low enough in price to be sold to the DIY market
  • Autonomous drones and vehicles will become dominant in proposals for new military platforms
  • The race for quantum computing achievements will heat up between China and the US
  • 6G research will start in several universities

Let us know in the comments what you think and your predictions for 2019. See the following 3 pages for predictions from ADI and MathWorks.

The following 5G predictions are from Tom Cameron, Director of Wireless Technology; and Kevin Kattman, GM of System Engineering for Communications; at Analog Devices.


In 2019, there will be realistic, tangible 5G activity

  • 2019 will be the year when we see the first commercial networks turning on and first handsets arriving in the market. Like previous generations, 5G will have low initial penetration but will accelerate in coming years as technology matures and user devices emerge. Like 4G, it will take several years from initial launch until 5G is the dominant technology globally. Based on recent announcements from key industry players (i.e. Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile), first 5G commercial deployments will likely commence during the second half of 2019 with a target to have 5G commercial service available in 2020.
  • One question to consider is will these networks be “true 5G?” It will depend on how 5G is defined. An accepted definition of a 5G subscriber is a device supporting the NR protocol connected to an NR basestation. This is independent of which spectrum band the network utilizes. While some may consider 5G only as operating in mmwave spectrum, truly all spectrum is 5G spectrum and we will see NR deployed across the entire spectrum range, depending on what assets operators have available to support their strategy. If you recall the original IMT2020 KPIs set out by the ITU, there are several requirements which will certainly be met, such as spectral efficiency improvements and super-high user data rates. However, don’t expect all the KPIs to be achieved by any operator on Day 1. This is the reason why standards work is ongoing after Release 15. It will take time to evolve the network technology to meet all the original IMT2020 goals set out, such as ultra-high reliability and low latency.

The 5G standard timeline will continue to evolve

  • The initial Release 15 specification (non-stand-alone, NSA) was agreed upon and released at the end of 2017. There was a mid-year drop addressing standalone (SA) in June 2018, and we will continue to see a few late drops toward the end of 2018 into early 2019 mainly addressing dual connectivity. While there will be future enhancements, Release 15 laid down the foundation to enable initial SoCs to be defined and subsequent first user devices to be available in 2019. Work on Release 16 has started already with a target to complete by the end of 2019. Major elements of the next release improve the wireless industry’s ability to address vertical markets including enhancements to V2X, industrial IoT and URLLC. Also included are the exploration of 5G in unlicensed bands, 5G for non-terrestrial use cases (satellite) and the move to higher frequency bands above 52.6 GHz. There will be work toward various enhancements to improve network efficiency, interference mitigation, MIMO enhancements and exploration to improve location and positioning.
  • For the sub 6-GHz infrastructure, Release 15 radio standards specifications are comprehensive, and we do not see the standards activity having material impact on the analog radio going forward. Most of the forward-looking features reside in the baseband, and generally will be implemented in software. This enables operators to install “5G ready” equipment now and evolve as new features become available. For mmwave, we are still early in the game and there may be some modifications to the standards as the industry learns and refines use cases. The Release 15 specifications are adequate to support first commercial deployments. However, the industry does not stand still, and 5G radios continue to evolve across all bands to deliver a lower cost of ownership to the operator.

There are hurdles that need to be cleared before full 5G deployment can be achieved

  • First, we need new spectrum. This is well underway globally whether it be mid-band or high-band spectrum, with many countries allocating spectrum for 5G. Ideal spectrum allocations for 5G are on the order of 50 MHz or more of contiguous spectrum to take full advantage of NR. Cost-effective 5G devices are required to drive subscriber adoption, whether these be user devices or machine-type devices. As with previous generations, we will see network infrastructure coverage roll out first and then capacity layered on as demand builds. In sub 6-GHz we will see the coverage layer built on massive MIMO using existing infrastructure followed by densification. Small cell deployments will be more critical to 5G to take advantage of higher frequency spectrum. Overall, whether an operator capacity layer relies on massive MIMO, mmwave or small cells, 5G will be built on a proliferation of antennae which in turn drives a proliferation of radios.
  • 5G will also drive radio channel counts, whether it be for macro, massive MIMO, small cell or mmwave form factors. Macro base stations in the low bands will expand MIMO channel counts from 2T2R to 4T4R and possibly higher. Massive MIMO radios will have increased radio density per system ranging from 16T16R to 64T64R and mmwave radios will have up to 256 RF channels in the analog beamformers. The drive for smaller, more efficient radios we have seen in 4G continues and in fact accelerates as we move into this age of beamforming radios. As an industry, we need to continue to reduce size, weight and power (SWaP) vconsumption while supporting wider bandwidths and higher operating frequencies. There are various approaches to reduce the SWaP consumption of the radio systems, the most common approach leveraging circuit integration and Moore’s Law to shrink the size and improve power efficiency.

There will be exciting 5G applications coming in 2019

  • Initially 5G will provide the ability to deliver mobile broadband at lower cost to operators, but as full NR capability emerges there are some exciting applications and use cases forthcoming. Industrial automation is one of the promising use cases that may leverage the low latency and high reliability provided by future 5G networks. There are a range of possible wireless use cases from predictive maintenance, to AR/VR for troubleshooting and repair, remotely controlled and cooperative robotics, to fully autonomous robotics. Initially, wireless networks need to provide similar connectivity to existing wired industrial Ethernet networks, but going forward 5G may be leveraged to evolve factories to create more flexible and efficient production lines.
  • Autonomous vehicles are quickly evolving with onboard sensor technologies and computing power gaining the ability to replicate the human driver. However, many agree that for Level 5 autonomy, reliable, ultra-low latency wide area connectivity will be required. The wide area connectivity will complement the power of the onboard sensors and decision making by providing situational awareness and extend the vehicle’s ability to look down the road to make decisions in a fraction of a second. Going forward, the evolution of 5G based C-V2X enables vehicles to share their senor data across a wide area so that vehicles may better predict road conditions to plan their routes and take evasive action to avoid unsafe situations.

Brendan O’Dowd, GM of Industrial Automation at Analog Devices, has put together his 2019 Industrial Automation predictions:


In 2019, we can expect to see a more dynamic (and flexible) factory floor given the transition to Industry 4.0

  • The journey to Industry 4.0 is already well underway. We are already seeing greater instrumentation than what we’ve had previously in our factories as well as process and control plants. Manufacturers are uncovering new ways of understanding what’s going on in their respective processes and using that information to improve overall performance.
  • Factory floors are all about efficiency and productivity. Manufacturers don’t want to waste any downtime doing preventive maintenance. To achieve this efficiency, businesses must be flexible and ensure they implement changes that are compatible with their current operations. Some of the challenges in achieving this include the difficulty of re-purposing equipment and reducing downtime. It’s not practical to develop or purchase an entirely new production floor every time a change is needed. For organizations looking to modernize and transition to Industry 4.0, it is critically important they have flexibility in their equipment and leverage the type of technology that will enable workers to manipulate configuration. Additionally, it’s important to be able to monitor what’s happening with equipment in real-time to sense any potential failures and to act on those before they negatively impact productivity. This increases the prevalence of predictive maintenance.
  • The digitization of the factory by transitioning to Industry 4.0 provides more and more data, so businesses can turn that data into information, transmit it around the factory and act on it properly. Any technologies that address several of these areas allows us to react, pick control systems, and have control locally rather than having it all be centralized. Safety and security are built into these systems. How businesses build that function in will help achieve the aims of efficiency, reliability, and productivity.

In 2019, while we expect to see accelerated deployment of robots and cobots, increased safety will be paramount when implementing both on the factory floor

  • Robot and cobot development shows no sign of slowing down. In 2019, the focus for manufacturers will shift towards accelerated creation and deployment of more capable robots with advanced features and functions. Cobots, the robots that interoperate with humans, will also become increasingly popular in manufacturing operations. For example, it’s common in car plants today for humans to remain separate from robots on the plant floor. Machines moving parts of the car frame will automatically stop if human workers cross a barrier separating the two. However, in the not-too-distant future, given advances in technologies like machine vision and machine learning, cobots will be able to move in the same space as human workers.
  • Cobots are becoming a viable option for manufacturing operations largely because of their low-end price points, flexibility, and constantly evolving capabilities. Because of this, it’s going to be crucial that robots and cobots meet safety requirements, especially given they will be interoperating with humans. Cobots are tailored to ISO standards with regards to safety, yet because of their functionality, industry must develop further safety standards. For example, cobots have defined speeds of motion. If you surpass designated speeds, then cobots can’t interoperate with humans because they can create and cause damage. To further address safety concerns, time-of-flight sensors including camera systems, RADAR, and LIDAR, are becoming more frequently utilized. Both RADAR and LIDAR are instrumental in ensuring robots/cobots do not detrimentally interfere with people on the factory floor. It can be expected that many different technologies will be brought in to address safety concerns surrounding cobots to avoid potential problems.
  • If manufacturers start making more capable cobots and have them handling bigger task loads, they become stronger and more capable of damage. That’s why the safety element becomes important. Manufacturers want cobots to be able to move within the same space as humans but they certainly don’t want them banging into or hurting them in any way. Safety concerns surrounding big robots can be addressed by exclusion. For cobots, you must be much more careful.
  • In the transition to Industry 4.0, the factory will face digitization allowing for more and more data, which means data security becomes more critical, even though the process is slow-moving. Installing factory equipment is time sensitive, and organizations need a way of implementing security that is simple.
  • While security in the IT world on the Internet is well understood, that’s not the case in the OT world, which are the operation technology networks that run the factories. As more and more of these factories become connected to the internet, addressing security issues becomes that much more important. The problem is the OT network and IT network speak two different languages. The strategies that are available at the IT level are not applicable at the OT level, and OT networks traditionally have not faced a problem like this before. As factories add increasing levels of connectivity, they need proper strategies to address it, and then develop a plan to implement these strategies down to the edge. The edge of the network includes that simplest valves, flow meters, and temperature sensors, and they need to be protected. A simple way of securing data is at the gateways into the factory, but we are going to need to secure the edge nodes in ways that don’t generate huge cost amounts or complexity to users.
  • To meet the challenges of industrial automation, we can expect companies to develop next generation software configurable IO products and next-generation TSN products. These technologies will enable factories to accelerate adoption of industrial automation, including the deployment of robotics, factory automation on the floor, and process control. Sensing technologies, like RADAR and LIDAR, will affect the future of IAT at the factory level, specifically for robots and cobots, and in terms of autonomous vehicles. Robots arms will become mobile and cobot development will really take off. These robots and cobots will become mobile rather than fixed, moving around the factory floor. RADAR and LIDAR will be used as part of the navigation systems for these pieces of equipment, not only as a location detector, but to ensure they’re not interfering with people working in the same area. Similarly, time-of-flight based camera systems will work together with these sensing technologies to enable a better performance around the factory floor.

Deterministic Ethernet will have greater influence

  • With Ethernet, there are certain limitations in standards. However, when a command is being sent inside a factory, that command can’t afford to be lost. Large corporations building a factory with their own equipment can create their own specific standards. Yet if you’re a small equipment supplier that’s supplying into many of these factories, you need to be able to do more.
  • The IEEE have stepped in with a set of time-sensitive networking standards that cover things like ingress and time synchronization distribution that will provide quality service guaranteed, including low latency guaranteed delivery, bandwidth reservation, and so on. The expectation is that these standards would be the future of industrial Ethernet and that the various standards would converge on TSN for next generation.
  • Another question 2019 will address is Ethernet as a solution over longer distances as a 4-20 mA replacement. There is work currently taking place surrounding a 10-Mbit one kilometer Ethernet standard called 10Base-T1L. This will allow you to use just a single twisted pair to route an Ethernet signal a kilometer away at 10-Mbit of data speed. This is something that will be interesting to see in the coming year.

Sean D’Arcy, Director, Aerospace and Defense, Analog Devices, Inc. have put together the following predictions:

Several RF and Microwave Technologies will Drive the Industry Forward in 2019

  • The industry will continue to move towards technologies that have higher levels of integration and flexibility to enable multiple use sub-systems. Re-usability drives down cost but more importantly accelerates time to market. Manufacturers’ re-use of the same hardware and software, as well as accumulated engineering knowledge across multiple platforms, mitigates risks and allows for rapid reconfiguration.
  • 2019 will see significant investments and design supporting massively parallel MIMO designs.  Adoption will drive increases in data capacity and coverage in developed nations.

Research and Development is Top of Mind with 5G on the Horizon 

  • Before 5G becomes available on a global scale, RF technologies will meet critical checkpoints in performance.  Of great importance is the availability of spectrum, whether it be low-, mid-, or high-band. In sub 6 GHz, the coverage layer will be built on massive MIMO using existing infrastructure followed by densification. Small cell deployments will be more critical to 5G roll out taking advantage of the higher frequencies.
  • As 5G continues to grow in relevance, everyone from component suppliers to service providers will be increasingly forced to manage their costs and respective business models. 5G promises orders of magnitude improvement in data capacity, however it comes at the expense of added equipment complexity and higher costs.

Innovation and Breakthrough Will Continue in Aerospace & Defense

  • For Aerospace and Defense companies, RF and microwave systems will continue to push higher into the spectrum.   As threats increase it becomes important to address both enemy and friendly operations up to 130 GHz.
  • In addition, current innovation in the architecture of RF and microwave transceivers greatly increases flexibility through software defined features, and vastly improves packaging density to reduce size. These features have significant positive impacts on many defense systems, including smart munitions applications. We will continue to see these innovations develop and be further refined in 2019.
  • Increased focus on extending battery life for soldier systems will drive down power management requirements for all types of military communication systems.  A move toward balanced transceiver cores along with better power management systems will be critical in this drive.

Peter Delos, RF & Microwave Technical Lead, Analog Devices, Inc. put together these predictions:

Different Variations or Receiver and Waveform Generator Architectures Lead to New Trends

  • Modern high-speed converters and transceivers offer the ability to sample at higher IF frequencies, and due to this, will grow in popularity in the industry. Use of these latest releases can simplify frequency plans, eliminate mixing stages, and reduce companion agile LO complexity.
  • The super heterodyne approach has been around for over 100 years now and can provide exceptional performance with proper frequency planning. It is also, unfortunately, the most complicated, as it requires the most power, the largest physical footprint relative to available bandwidth, and frequency planning can be quite challenging at large fractional bandwidths. This approach with modern high-speed converters and transceivers will give designers more flexibility and options with their planning.
  • Another approach, direct sampling, has long been sought after, as a way to operate the converters at speeds commensurate with direct RF-sampling and achieve large input bandwidth. Today, high speed converters are available for direct sampling through S-Band and higher. A new trend that has started in 2018 and will proceed into 2019, however, is sampling at GSPS rates with analog input bandwidths above 6 GHz. Direct sampling to higher frequencies will continue to be a trend to watch in emerging data converters. As next-generation FinFET CMOS nodes continue to increase the transistor operating speeds and reduce parasitic capacitance, new families of data converters will become possible with the potential to have a significant impact on future RF system design.

SWaP Challenges with Digital Beamforming Arrays Lead to Innovation Designs

  • A fundamental physical challenge the industry faces today is element spacing, a function of wavelengths that reduce as the operating frequency increases. Many systems set the element spacing at half the wavelength or less to avoid grating lobes in the antenna pattern. At L and S band, it is practical to fit the electronics in every element spacing utilizing the latest transceivers or direct sampling converters.
    • As frequency increases to X Band (10GHz), it is challenging but possible with advanced integration.
    • At Ka Band it is quite challenging.
    • As frequency increases, hybrid architectures will become more practical and 4:1 beamformers will be able to reduce the receiver/exciter, allowing additional space to be allocated for the RF electronics.   
  • The industry will work to integrate full sections of the signal chains. Multi-channel integrated transceivers and converters form the foundation for RF sampling in a reduced physical footprint. 
  • In addition, integrated RF design in monolithic RFICs, SiPs (System in Package), and integrated T/R modules will continually advance. The combination of multi-channel, high-speed converters or transceivers along with RF advancements enable the integration needed for modern phased array implementations.   

Ken Karnofsky, Senior Strategist for Signal Processing Applications at MathWorks, plays future gazer and gives us his market predictions for 2019:

  • Standards keep on evolving– The new 5G standards aren’t set in stone and will continue to evolve. There’s been a huge amount of ambiguity around what 5G entails, but those in the industry will need to keep up and anticipate the further evolution of 5G in coming years.  
  • Ready, steady, go! Wireless design teams will now be expected to move even faster from R&D into market-ready stage. But these engineers will need to overcome a major design challenge: adopting 5G requires them to verify that their product designs can conform to or co-exist with the new, complex standard. R&D will need to swiftly educate themselves on the new guidelines and realise that there is steep a learning curve which will take time that must be built into their development plans.
  • Transformation tech for product design teams - Very few companies have adequate resources or in-house expertise to understand and implement a 5G-compliant design. 2019 will see an influx of technology for design teams to help them. Designers will be able to get an early start on predicting and customising the performance of their systems with algorithms and system design that meet and exceeds 5G standards specifications.
  • Reinvention of RF and antennas - Companies that make RF components or antennas cannot ignore the new 5G standards and will need to understand how their products will fit in with new networks. This might be tricky as they have lower expertise in wireless technology as traditionally they have got their expertise from measurement companies. New 5G modelling software will help them to test designs and simulations to avoid unwanted costs further down the line. 
  • Dawn of new design modelling – We will see a huge overhaul of the testing and validation stage. For example, in the past, the digital part of RF systems were designed in isolation and then tested in the field, but because 5G operates at higher frequency, this practice just won’t work. New modelling tools for engineers will be used to overcome this problem, meaning testing and validation periods will be kept shorter and cheaper.