I’ll be traveling to IMS 2016 this month, where I’ll dive head first into the RF/Microwave industry. It’s no surprise that industry experts are expecting big things, but I wanted to know what specifically to expect this year. And so I asked! Below is what the industry experts say we can expect to see at IMS 2016…
What major trends or applications do you expect to see at IMS 2016?
Liam Devlin, CEO, Plextek RFI
There are three areas where I anticipate seeing significant activity at IMS, both in terms of the latest offerings being shown by exhibitors and the developments visitors are most likely to be seeking information about.
The first is mm-wave ICs for 5G. The operating bands for mm-wave 5G will not be finalized until 2019, but with many equipment developers planning to release products in 2020 much development activity has already commenced. This has necessitated the selection of an operating frequency range as well as developing the technology to provide the low latency, very high date-rate services that 5G will need to supply. There are many candidate mm-wave frequency bands, and there is much debate about which will ultimately be selected. The choice will depend on both legislation and the practicalities of implementation, but these early developers need to make a decision now in order to proceed with their technology development activity. Thus far, we have been involved in development activity at around 28GHz, 31GHz, and 38GHz.
The second is high performance GaN transistors. As the technology matures, the power levels, gain, and efficiency that GaN transistors can offer have all steadily increased. Recently an L-band PA based on a commercially available single transistor was developed, with a gain of 20dB, an output power of 125W at P-3dB, and an efficiency of over 70 percent.
The third area of interest is Ka-band satellite communications. Inmarsat’s Global Xpress satellite system has completed commercial service introduction and is able to provide flexible high speed, world-wide wireless access using three I5 satellites. A fourth satellite is expected to be launched towards the end of the year to provide additional capacity. This capability will give rise to a wealth of innovative applications, which will all require appropriate technical solutions.
Faride Akretch, Marketing Manager, Rohde & Schwarz
There are several topical threads that have come into focus over several months and years that we expect to be reflected at IMS, and they all are somewhat related. Wideband communication, such as 5G or IEEE 802.11ad, where numerous announcements have been made and, like in the case of 5G, the industry is working to come together to define the standard and requirements. Higher frequencies play into that. Available bands that are most promising for 5G are in the cm and mm-wave spectrum between 28 GHz and up to 90 GHz. In that same range, at 77 GHz, are automotive radar applications. We have recently seen many developments and announcements ranging from adaptive cruise control to car-to-car communication and beyond. And lastly, related to all of the above, is the ongoing trend towards IoT or ‘Internet of Things’, where the ‘things’ span from consumer to commercial, automotive, and industrial applications, all utilizing and depending on the communications between devices.
As a test and measurement manufacturer, our focus is on testing all of these components, devices, systems, infrastructures, and dependencies. Wideband measurements and higher frequencies, for components up into the terahertz range, has become the norm for many of our customers. With higher speeds and faster clocks, tolerances have decreased and T&M equipment has to lead the charge with even more precise instrumentation that is capable of testing faster, lower noise devices on multiple ports. With increasing complexity, the need for test has continued to increase. And at the same time there still is the same pressure for time to market. Which leads to more efficiency and usability of T&M Equipment.
In summary, we expect to see many innovations around wideband communications, including 5G, 802.11ad, and automotive applications; higher frequencies up to terahertz applications, and a related increasing need for test to lead with instrumentations to enable developments in a most precise, effective, and user-friendly manner.
Joe Mallon, Business Development Manager, Vector Network Analyzers, Anritsu
We expect to see much activity in E-band product/component development at IMS 2016. One reason for this growth is the continued emergence of Advanced Driving Assistant System (ADAS) technology for automotive collision avoidance systems. One automotive radar requirement for future ADAS is the ability to detect small objects with a high resolution of distance, velocity, and angle. To achieve this, wideband FMCW modulation is mandatory as a key enabling technology. The use of continuous 4 GHz radar bandwidth is being adopted by the industry, and in the near future there will be demand for high-resolution millimeter radar using the 79 GHz band.
The growth of this application is influencing the design of test instruments. There is an increasing emphasis on reducing cost of test. That will require test equipment, such as Vector Network Analyzers (VNAs), to utilize new technologies, as the traditional step recovery diode technology and waveguide-based components do not provide the performance and cost efficiencies necessary. In our IMS booth (#949) we will show patented MMIC-based nonlinear transmission line (NLTL) technology, also known as shock line. NLTL technology is used to generate very narrow sampling pulses with fast transition times over an extremely wide range of microwave and millimeter frequencies. NLTL technology results in higher dynamic range and better raw directivity. The result is high performance, broadband measurement capability in small modules, as well as the ability to integrate the necessary performance in manufacturing applications.
Another key instrument is the spectrum analyzer. As is the case with the VNA, spectrum analyzers are evolving to effectively verify 79 GHz high-resolution radar designs. Integrated with high-performance waveguide mixers, spectrum analyzers are becoming simple to operate and compact yet achieve high measurement bandwidth functionality as well as maintain excellent sensitivity performance to accurately measure wideband signals.