Interview with Russ Garcia, EVP Microsemi and GM for its Symmetricom acquisition

Russ Garcia MicrosemiRuss Garcia, EVP Marketing of Microsemi Corp. and General Manager for its latest acquisition (Symmetricom), sees a strong market growth opportunity around Small Cells. It's one of the key focus areas for this multi-national, which has assembled a comprehensive range of timing and synchronisation solutions to address this market. Russ shares a wider view of the timing/sync market, explains how Microsemi has shaped its business through acquisitions and organic growth, and gives his personal view on the pace of Small Cell market growth.


For those unfamiliar with Microsemi, could you outline the scope and shape of the business?

Our ethos is to address "hard to solve" problems for industry, especially those affecting high value. This approach enables us to focus on areas that have significant barriers to entry. Our markets span communications, defense & security, aerospace (especially satellite and commercial aviation) and industrial (medical, automation, energy, and automotive). These four focus areas are forecast to generate over $1 billion in revenue this year.

Over the past few years we've made several significant acquisitions to build a strong presence in the communications sector:

  • 2007: PowerDsine - a pioneer and de facto leader in Power over Ethernet (PoE) technology
  • 2010: Actel – market leading FPGA capability
  • 2011: Zarlink – wide range of specialty communication ICs
  • 2013: Symmetricom – timing and synchronisation solutions

This sector now constitutes approximately 35% of our total business and is not only the largest portion, but also the strongest growth opportunity.

What have these got to do with the Small Cell industry?

Our approach is to target market verticals, identify the target applications to be solved, and boil this down to specific products.

The three fundamental pillars of excellence which forms the basis and essence of every product we build are: security, power and reliability.

We've identified several key focus areas for the communication sector, three of which relate to the Small Cell market:

  • Power over Ethernet (PoE) ICs and Midspan (injectors): Microsemi offers the industry's largest portfolio of leading edge PoE ICs and midspan solutions that can power Small Cells in many different deployment scenarios. These include: indoor/outdoor, AC/DC powered and managed/un-managed midspans. Microsemi PoE ICs are being used inside Small Cells to receive power.
  • Timing and Sync: Not only is accurate timing required for LTE, but it also improves location accuracy for position information finding.
  • FPGA: Ultra-low power programmable chips are used for the security and protection of customer data. An example is secure system boot.

We sell Small Cell solutions directly to equipment vendors/OEMs along with operators. We also sell Grandmaster clocks directly to network operators. A key advantage for us is that operators can combine IC solutions and systems to deliver an end-to-end observable and controllable network.

Is there anything new in Power over Ethernet relevant for Small Cells?

Many of our PoE chips would be embedded both in Small Cells and Ethernet switches for which it connects. Our chips now combine power with Ethernet switching, typically powering single combined 3G/LTE/Wi-Fi wall mounted units.

We also see operators are looking to deploy multiple equipment types outdoors. This isn't just the Small Cell but also the wireless backhaul and one or more CCTV security cameras. This requires PoE chips within each unit and also at the base of the pole. Power budget using PoE standard (IEEE 802.3at) allows 30W over 2 copper pairs. We can also support 4 copper pairs to achieve up to 60W, such as using 4 copper pairs. An emerging IEEE standard called PoH (Power over HDBaseT) enables transmit up to 95W over 4 pairs.

We released the 102GO product earlier this year that can deliver PoE and data up to 3 nodes using the same midspan architecture that needed multiple systems in the past. This allows operators to reduce OPEX and CAPEX. We also deliver PoE chip and system solutions to support multiple power level (watts) solutions enabling various scales of Small Cells including Micro, Pico, Public Access Femtos, etc.

How has Symmetricom been integrated into Microsemi's organisation?

Overall we integrate new acquisitions pretty rapidly. All our previous acquisitions are fully integrated, we are making great progress with Symmetricom and will complete the process within 3-6 months. We've taken a hard look to rationalise the product portfolio and made clear decisions on our future roadmaps. Where products are discontinued, we work closely with each of our customer accounts to ensure they have appropriate support to transition to newer solutions. This close interaction has very positive results – customers feel they can start asking us to do more, and our staff feels more motivated as part of an organisation that is growing and successful.

We'll continue to offer our Packet Timing solutions that are embedded in many Small Cells today. This derives accurate clock sync from a variety of sources, including GPS, SyncE and PTP. The partnerships and SyncWorld eco-system, which Symmetricom established, will continue as before. These inter-operate with our Grandmaster and Edgemaster clocks located at key points across the operator's network to deliver time and synchronisation to a high specification.

Do you think either the GPS or PTP timing source will win out long term?

Having either GPS or PTP on its own isn't enough. You must have adequate hold-over in case you lose GPS signal. The holdover time period will depend on the type of Small Cell product used and the type of oscillator selected. Only the very highest capacity/critical Small Cells would justify their own Rubidium clocks, so we propose sharing an Edgemaster clock across a group of perhaps 20 Small Cells. PoE midspan architecture can also be coupled with central Grandmaster time solutions.

What's your personal view of the Small Cell market?

It's clear that the original Femto-cells have not met commercial expectations. The original business case was somewhat flawed, and interoperability wasn't in place at the outset. It was originally aimed as a residential coverage solution.

Today we are now in a position where ubiquitous deployment is required to satisfy growing capacity demand, which is what HetNets are all about. This has to be done using Small Cells, putting the pipes and bandwidth where it needs to be.

We are definitely starting to see action happening today. We are actively in discussions with Tier 1 operators on how they plan to deploy. My personal view is that we can expect the Small Cell market will grow over the next two years.

Any predictions or Small Cell industry milestones we should look out for?

We look at component order rates to confirm pull through from market hype to industry revenue. Today this doesn't reflect what the front end market is talking about.

We expect to see that to start rising by mid 2014. Right now, most Small Cell deployments are happening in Asia (China, Japan, and Korea) and then North America. Both North America and Europe are still in the trial phase.

We consider it a major milestone when over 100,000 Small Cells have been deployed in urban areas across the world. This will probably take until the middle of 2015 when issues related to deployment, interference and macro coordination have been overcome. Following that, I'd expect to see a really good uptake of outdoor Small Cells.

There's a separate growth path for indoor Small Cells which depends on how the enterprise business embraces and grows that option. Short term, the opportunity for indoors is for 3G, but I see greater long term investment in 4G overall.

Microsemi is a sponsor of ThinkSmallCell

For more information visit the MicroSemi website

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