March 1, 2017

    Amid the wonders of RF are “alternative facts” about what the technology can and can’t do. A lot of these RF myths stem from annual prediction pieces, where companies look 30 years down the road to a marketplace brimming with 30 to 75 billion devices.

    At Qorvo, we’re certainly looking at the future too, but let’s not forget the present. To cut through the hype, here are a few alternative facts of RF and their factual equivalents:

    Alternative Fact: Underwater RF is the next big market

    The airwaves are getting crowded; it’s time to take this show underwater. Sure, underwater bit rates are very low and range is limited to a few feet — depending on the water’s salinity — but what a great opportunity to put our new waterproof smartphones to work!

    Real Fact: While only very low frequencies can travel underwater, there was a colossal effort beginning in 1958 to design a communications system that could direct any submarine on the planet to the surface, to send or receive a message. The system was called ELF, for extremely low frequency communication, meaning frequencies less than 60 Hz.

    For comparison, Qorvo products support frequencies from 600 MHz to 80 GHz.


    Alternative Fact: Smart meters are the next Amazon Alexa

    What’s my favorite song?

    When do I start brewing my coffee?

    How many times have I visited the Microwave Journal homepage to search for GaN?

    Only my smart energy meter knows for sure.

    Real Fact: There’s really nothing smart about a smart meter. As Cees Links, general manager of Qorvo’s wireless connectivity unit, likes to say, “If my smart meter is so smart, why didn’t it alert me when my basement was flooding for two days?”

    We haven’t combined smart meters with artificial intelligence quite yet, so you should be able to ask Amazon Alexa a personal question without being overheard by your electricity usage meter.

    However, we are working to connect smart meters with other Internet of Things (IoT) devices through Bluetooth and ZigBee, while emphasizing low power consumption, cost effectiveness and reliability for a longer life span.

    Hey Alexa, would you please bump the heat to 70°F?


    Alternative Fact: It’s best to wait for 5G to upgrade your smartphone

    5G smartphones promise the internet at the speed of light. Delay gratification and hold on to your flip phones, folks!

    Real Fact: Unless you’re willing to nurse your 2G or 3G flip phone for another three years, you’ll probably upgrade phones at least one more time between now and the rollout of the first 5G services in 2020. Plus, 4G has plenty of life left. The path to 5G runs through 4G first; only the last mile becomes high bitrate with true 5G speed and frequencies.

    So, need a new smartphone? No need to wait.


    Alternative Fact: More Wi-Fi access points is better

    Your turn to host Thanksgiving this year? Better think ahead and make sure you have an access point for every member of the family — including one for everybody at the children’s table.

    Real Fact: The addition of too many Wi-Fi access points creates interference problems. While still being formulated, the new 802.11ax wireless standard seeks to remedy interference issues, while increasing data rates in crowded areas like airports and family gatherings.

    RF companies are also developing innovative technologies like beamforming to extend the range of Wi-Fi at higher frequencies. Wi-Fi operates at either 2.4 or 5 GHz, and since 5 GHz doesn’t travel as far, beamforming helps direct the signal to the user.


    Alternative Fact: Wireless technology can never be wired

    How can you argue with that?

    Real Fact: Cable is the wired world of wireless. RF technologies compatible with the DOCSIS 3.1 cable standard are used in cable systems for power amplification within the network.

    For example, hybrid GaN PAs are included within optical nodes to amplify converted signals for delivery through the cable to set-top boxes and end users.

    Voila! Wireless technology delivered on a wire, so you can watch The Masters.

    This article first appeared in Brent's Musings on Microwave Journal.


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    Brent Dietz

    About the Author

    Brent Dietz
    Director of Corporate Communications

    Brent has seen a lot of engineering and technology during 30+ years in the tech industry. His primary role is making geek-speak understandable to the non-geek public, reporters and nontechnical analysts. It's challenging — simplifying without distorting — and it helps to have a sense of humor. Brent does, which he shares with readers from time to time.