Reliable access to high-speed, high-volume data communications has the potential to transform many industries and facilitate powerful new applications. Chief commercial officer at radio frequency specialist Filtronic, Walter Magiera, examines some of the trends and opportunities we can expect to see in the years ahead.
Firstly, when it comes to space and commoditising satellite production, to support the rise of mega-constellations of low earth orbit (LEO) satellites, RF device manufacturers are developing off-the-shelf space-capable high-power products, aiming to improve the commercial viability of small satellite manufacture and deployment. The exponential growth in data traffic also means that space communications will need to move further up the frequency band, to E-band (71-76GHz / 81-86GHz), where there is an abundance of bandwidth and technology to support its use.
In defence applications, unreliable or interrupted signals caused by congested frequency bands could cost lives. Moving up to higher frequency bands not only offers higher data rates, but also provides more directional signals that are harder to intercept. Alongside this, there is a push towards more digital signal processing in the radar signal chain. New technologies in the pipeline include ultrawide band (UWB) tuneable filters, operating across a broad spectrum of frequencies, which will be used to capture highly accurate spatial and directional data.
To manage forecasted data traffic, millimetre wave (mmWave) bands at the higher end of the frequency spectrum will need to be licensed for use by telecoms. The semiconductor processes and RF technologies required for W-band (92-115GHz) are well advanced and will be ready by the time licences are granted.
Work is underway to solve the fundamental challenges associated with D-band (138-174GHz), which offers much higher data rates, but requires significant changes to device architecture and advanced device packaging techniques.
The microwave circuits in quantum computers operate at superconducting temperatures, and are particularly sensitive to electromagnetic interference. Filtronic has developed advanced microwave filters to overcome this critical problem. RF technologies offer further potential to solve some of the unique challenges associated with quantum computing.
Driverless car technology is another advancement requiring extremely reliable, uninterrupted signals with low latency. Delivering this capability across road systems requires a dense network of transmit and receive functions, ideally at mmWave frequencies. Such reliable data connectivity could also be used for intelligent traffic light controls and other smart traffic-management solutions.
High-performance private wireless networks are starting to be used to improve the competitiveness of high-frequency trading. Wireless point-to-point radio links can transmit signals milliseconds faster than fibre-optic cables. In such high-frequency trading where decisions are made by machine learning, the ability to make decisions a fraction of a second faster than the competition delivers a real competitive advantage.
In all industries and applications, there is a hunger for more and faster data, which means moving signals higher up the frequency spectrum into the uncongested mmWave bands. As you move up the frequency spectrum, transmit and receive components become smaller and devices become more complex and integrated. Thermal management becomes an issue, and there is a need to increase power. All of this presents considerable challenges for advanced RF device designers and manufacturers.
At Filtronic, we enable the future of RF, microwave and mmWave communication, striving to optimise the size, weight and power of transceivers, power amplifiers, filters, combiners and other devices. We are leading the way in anticipating trends and developing the products required to unlock the future possibilities of high-frequency RF applications and can offer the expertise and advice if you have a novel application or process that relies on high-speed, low-latency data communications.