Friday, October 10, 2008

Not all Business news is bad.

Feeling down about recent news? The following items should cheer you up or at least make you consider life goes on. While financial news continued to dominate the headlines it was nice to see the majority of press releases from companies in the RF/microwave space tended back to the tangibles – good old (well, actually new) fashioned hardware! Plenty of new products with impressive performance and less complexity than a credit default swap (whatever that is). Not to mention new business wins and other impressive milestones met.

Skyworks announced that the company had roughly doubled its year-over-year Smart Phone FEM shipments since 2004, with over 40 million units sold in fiscal 2008 alone. The company displayed bullishness that seems to be in short supply these days in the business world when announcing their success riding the steep growth trajectory of the rapidly emerging Smart Phone segment through their Intera™ portfolio of innovative front-end modules (FEM).

Triquint Semiconductor also had good news to crow about when they announced that the Office of Naval Research (ONR) has awarded TriQuint a 21-month, $4.5 M contract to advance manufacturing methods used to produce high power, high frequency gallium arsenide (GaAs) amplifiers. TriQuint was chosen based on its experience developing high performance, high reliability amplifiers for a wide range of defense and aerospace applications.

NEC Corp. has reported that shipments of its ultra-compact microwave communications system, PASOLINK, have surpassed more than 1 million total units. The 200,000 shipments figure was reached in 2004, following approximately 20 years of availability, and the system soon eclipsed 500,000 total units in February 2007. Most recently, shipments to mobile telephone carriers in such markets as Asia and the Middle East, where rapid economic expansion has taken place, have contributed significantly to PASOLINK breaking through the 1 million unit mark.

Internationally, Ericsson has signed a sole-supplier agreement with Digicel Group for the nationwide deployment of a GSM/EDGE network in Panama. Motorola has signed a multi-year WiMAX contract with wi-tribe Pakistan limited, a joint venture between Qatar Telecom (Qtel) and Saudi Arabia’s A.A. Turki Group of Companies (ATCO). The company will supply infrastructure and a comprehensive services package that will enable cost-effective, wireless broadband services for wi-tribe’s customers. Via this system wi-tribe aims to deliver instant wireless broadband connectivity from North Africa across the Middle East and up to Asia. And a little closer to home, EADS Defence & Security has announced a major expansion plan to make PlantCML in Gatineau, Quebec, Canada, its North American R&D and top-level technological support centre for the large-scale SN P25 public safety and security digital communications systems market. SN P25 systems permit the seamless integration of multiple first responder services into one shared communications and data-sharing secure network.

Product news included the announcement that Parker Hannifin Corp., a leader in motion and control technologies, has intorduced a new multi-planar EMI shielding gasket in convenient strip form. SOFT-SHIELD® 4850 provides shielding for consumer and commercial electronics, telecom and information technology applications such as backplanes, I/O panels, and access panel cabinet seals.

ANADIGICS Inc. announced that the company is delivering HELP2™ power amplifiers (Pas) to LG Electronics for its new 3G Vu™ mobile device currently available through AT&T. The LG Vu is one of the first touch screen devices to support AT&T Mobile TV, allowing users to view live streaming TV shows right in the palm of their hand on a 3” display. The ultra slim design offers a 2.0 megapixel camera with zoom, music player, messaging, mobile e-mail and web browsing abilities. This 3G handset claims to deliver significantly longer talk time by utilizing the power-saving features of ANADIGICS HELP2 technology.

Also in the power device world, Microsemi Corp., a manufacturer of high performance analog/mixed signal integrated circuits and high reliability semiconductors, announced its first two RF power transistors utilizing silicon carbide technology for high power VHF and UHF band pulsed radar applications. These RF power transistors utilize state-of-the-art silicon carbide technology designed for VHF - 150 to 160 MHz, and UHF - 406 to 450 MHz, respectively. These high performance, common gate, class AB, high power transistors offer the industry’s highest power output, typical 1400 W at VHF and 1100 W at UHF of peak power in compact single-ended packages.

Exhibiting its RO4000 and RO3000 laminates and other advanced materials at the Taiwan Printed Circuit Assembly show (TPCA) 2008 to be held at the Nangang Exhibition Hall in Taipei, Taiwan on October 22-24 was the news out of Rogers Corporation this week. Rogers will also display several of its highly effective thermal management solutions, including COOLSPAN™ and HEATWAVE™ materials

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Microsemi Releases First Series of SiC High Power Devices

A few years ago most of the HPA manufacturers were researching the next generation of high power devices on GaN and SiC. But is seems like most companies choose GaN for their next generation of devices and interest in SiC seemed to fade (except as a substrate material for GaN).

Over the past year, many companies have released new high power GaN devices and it seems to be taking off for many of the higher frequency applications and high voltage LDMOS seems to be doing the same for lower frequency applications. So I am excited to see Microsemi bringing SiC to the market with the release of a new family of high power devices and talked with them last week for a press briefing.

With a high operating voltage (125 V) and great thermal conductivity, these devices boost wider pulse widths, better reliability, and reduced size compared to the competing Si devices for next generation demands. They have typical power levels of 1400 W at 156 MHz and 1100 W at 405-450 MHz (300 micro sec pulse width, 10% duty cycle) plus can stand up to VSWR of 10:1 (which could be much higher after further testing) for these initial devices. Microsemi is first introducing these VHF and UHF devices followed by later releases of L-band and S-band devices. For more details, the release is available on our site. It should be interesting to follow how these devices evolve in the marketplace.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

IMD measurements... with a Network Analyzer?

In a previous life, I spent some time developing homegrown software programs to perform various RF tests (power measurements, load-pull, IMD, etc.) and so I have a soft spot in my heart for automated test systems. Therefore, news of an intermodulation distortion (IMD) application for Agilent's PNA-X microwave network analyzer caught my eye.

Anyone who has made this measurement knows you need to drive your device (one with non-linear behavior, thus the distortion) with two signal sources (slightly seperate frequencies) and test equipment to measure the output signals (the two input signals plus the generated intermod tones), usually a spectrum analyzer.

Agilent's network-analyzer-based approach does not require any external computer or hardware beyond the PNA-X network analyzer. Instead, dual internal sources and a built-in signal combiner provide fast swept-IMD measurements, according to the company - approximately 100 times faster than spectrum-analyzer based solutions. This approach results in higher throughput in manufacturing and faster time-to-market for R&D engineers. An internal calibration routine ensures accurate answers, yielding better data for R&D designers as well as tighter specifications for manufacturing engineers. Apparently the applicxation includes a spectrum mode which enables troubleshooting without the need for a seperate spectrum analyzer.

Joel Dunsmore from Agilent wrote about the new capabilities by today's network analyzer to do more than just S-parameters in his March "Expert Advice" column on the Microwave Journal web site. It may be a good time for those of you who missed it, to go back and give it a read.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

RF/mW Financial Update: 10/03/08

Microchip and ON Semiconductor launched a $2.3 billion offer to buy Atmel for $5 dollars a share. The two Arizona-based companies would break up Atmel, selling its nonvolatile memory and RF and automotive business to ON Semi and possibly disposing of Atmel's ASIC business if the proposed acquisition goes through. Shares of Microchip fell nearly 5%, while On Semiconductor shares were down 14.7% on the news.

The current global financial situation appears to be having an impact on the microwave job market as Sony Ericsson announced the cutting of 2,000 jobs. Meanwhile, IC Insights released its 2008 forecast update, stating that the global IC market growth will likely be between 1 and 5% this year as unit volumes rise but average selling prices fall.

Freescale has decided to opt out of the mobile IC business. Instead, the company intends to increase its investments in the automotive, broadcast, radar, medical and networking markets, as well as in the industrial and consumer markets.

Market research group Strategy Analytics predicts the global market for RF components for cellular basestations will remain flat at $1.1 billion through 2013. Strategy Analytics makes this prediction despite the fact that forecasts for actual shipments of basestations are expected to grow to 13.4 million units in 2013, a CAAGR (compound annual average growth rate) of nearly 70 percent. The flat revenue reflects a decrease in component price.

The report also suggest the migration to 3G+ and fourth generation networks will also drive a move toward smaller form factors as operators look to reuse existing sites and infill capacity with smaller base stations.

The penetration of micro base stations is forecast to increase to 29 percent between this year and 2013, but the largest growth in shipments will come from picocell and femtocell shipments.