There are two mega-trends driving RF, microwave and millimeter wave technology: the insatiable demand for broadband connectivity, and the emergence of wireless sensing.
The exponential growth of broadband data is driving wireless (and wired) communications systems to more effectively use existing bandwidth, even as the industry searches for wider bandwidth spectrum at higher frequencies. To make effective use of the wireless channel, system operators are moving toward massive-MIMO, multi antenna systems that transmits multiple wide-bandwidth data streams – geometrically adding to system complexity and power consumption. This trend can be seen in markets such as cellular access, point-point radio, and satellite and military communications, where peak data rates have been increasing by about 58% each year for last six years and the total mobile data traffic is expected to grow at 45% CAGR to 2020. For system operators, higher-frequency systems provide the promise of greatly increased data rates, but with significant added complexity due to propagation challenges and inherently lower power efficiency.
The other rapidly emerging market is wireless sensing. Originally serviced by discrete solutions for military systems, the technology has evolved to a point where there are a broad array of wireless sensing applications such as automotive radar for driver assistance, industrial radar for applications such as drone collision avoidance and smart traffic systems, and millimeter wave scanners for airport security. In wireless sensing, higher bandwidth means higher resolution, and this is driving systems to higher frequencies. As with the communications sector, wireless sensing is moving to multi-antenna (phased-array) systems that allow for sophisticated beam steering and multi-beam sensing configurations.
In the cases, the only effective path forward is to provide system-level solutions that leverage optimum technologies and interfaces across the complete signal chain. This requires a deep understanding of system applications, signal chain components (data converters, frequency and clock generation, RF switching and amplification) and a broad range of technologies, including low-geometry CMOS, SiGe, BiCMOS, GaAs, GaN, and system-level packaging. Each sub-market presents unique architectural and system challenges that requires customized signal chains and integrated solutions to meet performance, cost, and power consumption requirements. Analog Devices has a broad commitment to the communications infrastructure and sensing markets and is investing in the above technologies to bring system-level innovation in performance, efficiency, size, and complexity up through 100GHz.