Mobile World Congress (MWC) is the world’s largest gathering for the mobile industry, organized by the GSMA and held in the Mobile World Capital Barcelona, 27 February – 2 March 2017. Over the last 3 years Sivers IMA has decided to not have a conventional stand since we see much greater benefit from meeting our customers in a private meeting room where we can demo our solutions and have deeper conversations about the market and our products. This year we had 36 meetings booked with new, old and potential customers. On top of this, we took of course the opportunity to look at the overall market message as well as what our customers and the competition was showing.
WiGig (802.11ad) in smartphones
Many of 2017’s most high-profile handsets were announced over the course of the show, including the Sony Xperia XZ Premium, Huawei P10 and LG G6. However, one of the major topics was that one phone was not released, the Samsung S8, which means that neither was the new Qualcomm SoC, the Snapdragon 835, which has support for WiGig (802.11ad). The rumor has it that the Samsung S8 is one of the first of the big five that will support the Snapdragon 835. Hence, for consumer electronics it will still take some time until 802.11ad makes it entry in a bigger way, but since consumer electronics is not in Sivers IMA focus, this has no impact on us. It is however interesting to follow what will happen. Now the rumor says that S8 is to be released in May, with the Snapdragon 835 onboard.
The new and the traditional
It became clear at MWC that there are two different ways of viewing the use of millimeter wave for point to point (PtP), point to multipoint (PmP) and mesh networks. The traditional way, which derives from traditional telecom vendors originating in the microwave industry that has sold point to point links for a long time. Then there is the new way to see PtP, PmP and mesh network, for example to be used for fixed wireless access (FWA) or fast low cost data and telecom links.
Looking at the traditional market, E-band is now an established market with a good number of links sold per year as well as good future growth. V-band on the other hand falls into the non-traditional “new paradigm”, where the biggest interest is within the PmP and mesh networks, supporting beam forming and beam steering, as well as for low cost links using the new V-band in ÚS (66-71 GHz). Many companies see 66-71 Ghz as very interesting, since it can be used with much lower oxygen attenuation in the air compared to “normal V-band” and hence gives an E-band type of link budget in the license free spectrum.
5G is, of course, also part of the new paradigm and is a very hot topic. It’s clear that the first use case for 5G will be FWA. However, since the final worldwide frequencies for 5G is not yet set, a lot of the talk was around what frequencies will be used. The best bet right now is 28 and 39 GHz for millimeter wave. Also, the discussions about the new Ericsson/IBM 5G chip using 28 GHz were quite interesting for Sivers IMA, since they have chosen to use a SiGe 130 nm technology, very comparable to the SiGe technology we have used for our beam forming 60 GHz WiGig chip. They also use low cost patch antennas, similar to the antennasSivers IMA is now developing. This of course strengthens us in our belief that we have chosen the right silicon technology and antenna technology and that Sivers IMA will be able to offer both great RFICs and antennas for 5G.
For Sivers IMA it was a great week with good product feedback, where our demos have been highly appreciated. Sivers IMA was for example the only company able to show 57-71 GHz and 256 QAM at MWC this year. We are of course also very pleased with signing our first WiGig contract at MWC for our TRX-BF01, which shows that we have very competitive products. It is also encouraging to see ABI Research, that forecasts that FWA subscribers will grow at a 30% CAGR to 151 million in 2022 , which is why infrastructure WiGig and 5G solutions have been the biggest interest at MWC this year.