TECHNOLOGY ASSESSMENT

It is always difficult to make a comparable assessment of the technical advances of several countries and regions. The hardware technologies for wireless communication are no exception. In fact, due to the very broad technical topics involved in this chapter, the challenge is even greater. Therefore, Table 5.1 provided below is based on the quite subjective judgment of the authors of this chapter. The WTEC panel as a whole does not disagree with this table.

Table 5.1
Wireless Technology Assessment for Hardware

U.S.

Japan

Europe

Millimeter Wave Circuits and Systems

**

*****

*****

Packaging/Interconnect

*****

****

***

CAD

*****

**

***

SiGe/Si

****

***

*****1

III-V

*****

*****

****

GaN

****

****

***

Antennas

***

****

***

Passive Components

****

*****

****

Amplifier Technique

*****

****

****2

MEMS/Micromachining

****

***

**




1 Germany only; 2 UK activities

The following six points pertain to the entries in Table 5.1:

  1. Millimeter Waves. Here, it is very clear that in terms of devices and MMICs, the United States is ahead of others, largely because of DARPA's successful MIMIC and MAFET projects. However, the U.S. entry here reflects expertise in millimeter wave circuits for non-military wireless applications. In Japan, government-led programs on 60 GHz wireless technology have been implemented, while in Europe a substantial effort has been expended mainly for automotive applications centered around 77 GHz.
  2. The United States has dominated CAD development and commercialization and it maintains an unchallenged position.
  3. In the area of SiGe, IBM is the leader. However, its circuit applications have lagged behind Daimler's effort, particularly in millimeter wave areas. In an effort to make the process technology available to others, IBM and Daimler process technologies are expected to benefit circuit design efforts funded by other organizations.
  4. GaN is still in its infancy in industrial applications. Most high performance devices devices are still at the research stage. It is interesting to note that the United States is leading in the RF (microwave) area, i.e., transistor development, while Japan's effort has mainly been in the area of optical devices. Cree in the United States and Nichiya in Japan have made excellent materials available.
  5. Antenna research has left much to be desired. In wireless communications, antenna research is meant to be different from the traditional in terms of the analysis, design, and characterization of antenna elements and/or phased arrays, from an electromagnetic point of view. What is needed is the development of an interdisciplinary research field useful for future wireless technologies. Examples are the integration of antennas with the RF front end, such as passive filters, MEMS devices, amplifiers, and even DSPs.
  6. In the area of passive components, the Japanese are slightly ahead due to their effort in high Q components led by Murata.

In closing, it should be emphasized that future research on wireless oriented hardware requires interdisciplinary approaches not only between hardware and hardware but also between hardware and software.


Published: July 2000; WTEC Hyper-Librarian