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The Compound Semiconductor Industry Looks Forward to 2016 and 5G

by Eric Higham | 12月 28, 2015

Where has the year gone? The arrival of the holiday season serves as a reminder that another year is just about over. It’s a good time to reminisce about the unexpected developments, the people and places and the good times of the preceding 12 months. The Boston area started 2015 with record snowfall totals, all in about 6 weeks. As I write this at the end of December, it has been another year of strong growth in the compound semiconductor industry and we are expecting to approach 70 degrees today. This shows that things don’t always go as expected.


However, as the calendar winds down, it prompts thoughts, plans and expectations for the upcoming year. Regular readers of this blog know that on several occasions, I’ve written about how compound semiconductors will enable networks to support transformative applications and services. You will also know that I use my cousin April as a counter balance to the thought that everyone will be able to partake of these wonderful, transformative new services. For those who don’t know, April lives in a small community on a lake in the Adirondack Mountains of New York State. Surprisingly, she has faster broadband service than I do, but wireless cellular coverage is non-existent. Since I seem to derive so much inspiration from April, I will have to make a New Year’s resolution to stay in touch with her!


In the spirit of the season, looking ahead, networks, compound semiconductors and April’s WWAN (wireless wide area network) challenges, this blog is about the 5G network. I just published an Insight with my thoughts on 5G and it appears to have a lot in common with the holiday season. There is a lot of anticipation; no one knows the outcome and everyone is just hoping everything fits!


What needs to “fit” is a new wireless network that will have a symbiotic relationship with the growing 4G LTE network. The 5G vision is truly transformative for society, promising services and applications that improve the quality and availability of healthcare, eliminate traffic fatalities, increase productivity and generate a whole host of new market opportunities. The mission statement of 5G is “data anywhere, anytime by anyone and anything” and the implications of realizing this mission statement and the 5G vision are profound.


I pulled the graphic at the end of the blog from a recent Nokia webinar. The have succinctly distilled the themes of 5G into three circles, each associated with a pillar to enable implementation and they also link specific network requirements to the themes. The challenges and the opportunities associated with developing this network are massive. The vision entails peak wireless broadband speeds that will be competitive with the fastest cable and fiber offerings. The peak and the “whenever needed” speeds must also satisfy the mission statement of wireless data to everyone. I have seen estimates that 66% of the global population does not have Internet service. Like my cousin April, some portion of the remaining 34% do not have access to any technology that will currently support 100 Mbps. This means that network availability must be high on the list of challenges for 5G.


In addition to network availability, the performance requirements pose a huge challenge. The 5G networks have to handle more devices (to accommodate the Internet of Things) and data traffic, deliver higher data rates, reduce latency, enable increased battery life in the user equipment and provide higher reliability and availability than current 4G networks. The change in these characteristics is not incremental; most need to improve by orders of magnitude! However, as others have said, “from great challenge comes great opportunity”. Certainly, the opportunity for the compound semiconductor industry is enormous. Some of the network and device hardware implementations getting the most traction involve higher operating frequencies, considerably higher levels of network densification, more intelligence in these network nodes, massive MIMO, more sophisticated modulation schemes and higher order carrier aggregation. All of these techniques bode well for the compound semiconductor industry and the broader electronics industry. For more information, I would urge clients to read the Insight linked above and for others to contact me. The scope of this 5G effort also ensures that I will be following the evolution of this technology and the market applications for many holiday seasons to come.


Best wishes to everyone for a wonderful holiday season and a Happy New Year! I am excited to see what 2016 will bring.


  • Eric

Source: Nokia


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