Trailblazer: Fabian Battaglia, CEO of Mobix Labs.
The trail he's blazing: Creating the build blocks necessary to make the next generation of wireless products possible.
The below article is a summary of the Podcast Interview.
What if you were suddenly in a car accident that caused you life threatening injuries. And the medical help needed to save your life aren't close enough to help. Advanced technologies like Augmented Reality (AR) now make it possible for a primary care physician to help from many miles away. But the physics of transmitting and receiving these wireless signals can be challenging, says Fabian Battaglia, CEO of Mobix Labs.
His firm provides the silicone chips connected to the antennas that enable the rapid transmission and processing of signals. "You'll see acceleration of 5G at these higher frequencies starting in 2022," he added. In this interview, Fabian provides a few examples of what's already possible.
Q - What is 5G?
A - 5G networks are the next sequential generation from 4G. One G was when we first got cell phones and could speak. Then we could text, send emails and video. Each generation has given us increased capability. But each generation has required increased bandwidth to support those applications.
What we have today is 4G, or 4G LTE (Long-Term Evolution). You see 5G advertised by companies like Verizon. You can't watch anything on TV these days without catching a 5G commercial. But the speed capabilities of 5G need to be defined. 5G today is what's known as Sub-6 GHz (Gigahertz). This is only incrementally better than what we have with 4G LTE.
" What's coming is the infrastructure to support these higher frequencies."
This does not capture the full promise or capability of 5G. You often hear 5G referred to as millimeter wave. This the 24 to 44 GHz spectrum. This is far higher than the 6 GHz or what's called 5G today. If you turn on your iPhone, you might see a little 5G indicator. This is less than 6 GHz. It's not these higher frequencies.
What's coming is the infrastructure to support these higher frequencies. These are the 24 to 44 GHz frequencies. But the physics of transmitting and receiving these wireless signals can be challenging. At these rates you run into some physical challenges.
" It will cost more to have a network inside a factory or an office building."
It doesn't travel as far. It doesn't go through walls. It gets interrupted by weather and trees. Any obstruction impedes the signal. This shortens the distance that you can operate from receiver to transmitter. Only advanced technology is reliable enough to process those signals at those rates.
It will cost more to have a network inside a factory or an office building. Or, if it's used outdoors by the general public. Municipalities will need to spend a lot of money on infrastructure. That is, if they want to support 5G at these higher frequencies.
Q - What new innovations will 5G enable?
A - There will be a lot of use cases. Some we can't even think of now. These will evolve once we get critical mass of this technology. Some of the more obvious ones are going to be autonomous vehicles. That's going to take a lot of data and what's called low latency capabilities.
This is where the rapid transmission and processing of signals is critical. Safety and reliability will be of great concern. For communications in general, you'll be able to download movies on your phone in a fraction of the time you do now.
" AR and VR are helping burn victims through their rehabilitation process."
The bandwidth we have now with 4G LTE or Sub-6 GHz 5G is getting crowded and saturated. We have to increase the pipe, and that's what the higher frequencies are going to be able to allow us to do.
Then there are going to be technologies like AR (Augmented Reality) and VR (Virtual Reality). There are some outstanding applications and use cases. A friend of mine who supports children's hospitals was telling me a story about how AR and VR are helping burn victims though their rehabilitation process.
They put the patients in shallow pools, and give them technology to create the sensation they are swimming with dolphins. This allows children to stretch, which is very painful in burn victims. Those are the types of applications higher 5G frequencies will enable. You'll be free of the heavy cables that you have today in those type of applications.
"There's going to be holographic applications. These are pretty cool."
Then there's going to be holographic applications. My first experience was at a museum. It had James Earl Jones in the form of a holographic image giving you an introduction. There twenty to thirty people in this room, but it's as if he was there with you.
That's very data intensive. It will need support from advanced technology. There'll be other applications for the way we educate and entertain ourselves, too. Imagine yourself being put into a sporting event such as a football game. These higher frequencies enable some pretty cool and entertaining capabilities.
Q - When will 5G be commonly available?
A - You're now seeing it starting to find its way. Experts predicted that the 4G LTE pipe was going to be at its limits within two to three years. And that was pre-Covid-19.
" You'll see acceleration of 5G at these higher frequencies starting in 2022."
Now with all the video conferencing we're doing, there's more pressure on bandwidth caused by all the learning and communicating. You'll see acceleration of 5G at these higher frequencies starting in 2022.
Q - Where does Mobix Labs come in?
A - We're involved in what's called the front end. This refers to the silicone chips connected to the antenna. Our devices transmit and receive the millimeter wave signals from the antenna. We process them so that a processor can then digitally act upon those signals.
" We're doing our part to have the best cost performance ratio."
That's a complex signal chain. It's important in the 5G space to be able to do that reliably and cost effectively. The associated cost to that application is significant. We're doing our part to have the best cost performance ratio, or solution to the problem. So, we fit in that chain or channel between a processor and the antenna.
Q - What devices will Mobix Labs enable?
A - We first are going to be approaching the infrastructure market. By infrastructure, I'm referring to small cells or repeaters. These are sometimes called access points. We fit into the infrastructure that will provide millimeter wave solutions.
We also looking at IoT type applications. This could be anything from a laptops or TV, to an appliance that you connect to the Internet. We would be able to support those applications, but those will become more opportunistic. Our focus is infrastructure.
Lastly, there are handsets. Being a new company, we need to cut our teeth on other applications first. Then we'll consider mega-volume applications such as handsets. We can support them outside of Apple or Samsung on smaller volume handsets. And we could be a very attractive solution for them.
Q - What's the latest news from Mobix Labs?
A - We have completed a funding round. We're proud of the fact that it was very well received. And we closed it sooner than we had anticipated. We raised 12.5 million dollars since we started our seed round which dates back to August of 2020.
We had to close it earlier than anticipated because we didn't want to over subscribe it at this point. We are going to be sampling product sometime in March or April 2021. We've also developed some antenna products we're excited about.
"Our board includes Jim Peterson, former chairman and CEO of Microsemi."
We've completed our Board of Directors which includes Jim Peterson, former chairman and CEO of Microsemi. We've also added David Aldridge who is current Chairman of Skyworks. And we've also added other CEOs who have been successful in the semiconductor industry.
We've also assembled an Advisory Board independent of our Board of Directors. Each member focuses on a functional department in the company. This includes R&D, finance, operations and sales. We're excited at the reception we've gotten from some of these industry leaders.
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