IMS 2008 Trip Report

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Trip Report on the IMS/MTT/RFIC Conference in Atlanta, GA (June 15-20, 2008)

 

Mike Farmwald

 

IMS 2008 is the main wireless hardware technical conference in the world. It was held in Atlanta, GA, during the week of June 15-20, 2008.

 

ParkerVision did not present a paper at this conference. I heard that they (ParkerVision) had submitted a paper, but it was rejected for "lack of technical substance" among other reasons. I did see a marketing person from ParkerVision (Richard Harlan, I believe) attending several of the power amp paper sessions (he didn't ask any questions). I didn't see any technical people from ParkerVision attending, and apparently David Sorrells didn't show.

 

Steve Cripps won a major Microwave society award for contributions to power amplifier design. Steve Kenney was made a fellow of the IEEE - also for contributions to power amplifier design.

 

Many companies and universities gave papers on high-efficiency power amps for handsets, some with fairly impressive PAE numbers. RFMD and Skyworks are shipping very-high-efficiency PAs for EDGE (and hinting at upcoming announcements of WCDMA), and Anadigics has a new generation of WCMDA high-efficiency PAs. True CMOS PAs are either shipping in volume (Axiom Microdevices) or announced (Samsung, Amalfi). I talked to many companies - no one is seeing ParkerVision as a competitor at *any* handset vendor. In fact, no one I talked to takes ParkerVision seriously. Comments varied from "Are they still around?" to "total fraud".

 

It's now well known who the secret OEM is - and it's definitely not a tier-1 OEM. "Tier-5 - maybe" was one quote. Also, the royalty rates are known and ParkerVision would have to achieve 100% market share - every 3G phone shipped in the world - just to break even. Jeff's claimed royalties of $0.50-$1.00 per phone are exaggerated by nearly 10-25 fold over the real number. The OEM is under no obligation or commitment to ParkerVision, and has no real "skin" in the game. I was told the earliest possible ship date for a phone was mid-2009 and that was very unlikely, given that ParkerVision hasn't yet produced a working chip or phone for the carriers to test. Testing takes a minimum of three months for a carrier to even consider a new device. Overall, no one I talked to believes a phone using d2p will ever ship, although the more generous were willing to believe that ParkerVision might manage to cobble together a prototype phone by spring 2009.

 

ITT is (still) not working on using ParkerVision d2p or d2d technology, and there is no chance of any revenues from ITT in the foreseeable future. A long list of companies have evaluated d2p and have no interest in licensing or otherwise working with ParkerVision - RFMD, Skyworks, Anadigics, Samsung, Freescale, etc. I confirmed this with pretty much all of them at this conference.

 

At least one person commented on the ParkerVision website "technical" information update in April - "At first I though it was an April Fool's Prank - there was no substance at all!". The speculation on the d2p efficiency claims varied from "simulated" to "they are probably using a variable power supply and are measuring some sort of drain efficiency at lower power levels - which is totally bogus and misleading", but since Parker is now refusing to give technical details (contrary to his promises of last fall), who can really tell? Few people really cared that much, since no one believes d2p will ever ship.

 

Overall an interesting conference, but pretty bleak for ParkerVision. Pretty much no chance of any revenues for the next 12 months, and it's hard to see how it gets better in 2010. Jeff is going to have to move on to another technology - power amplifiers aren't going to do it for ParkerVision. I must confess I'm curious how he will manage to move on from here, and what area he picks to "revolutionize".

 

In case you're wondering, I didn't spend very much time on ParkerVison. I saw lots of new technology and my keynote address went well, so overall it was an interesting and productive week. Quite a few people came up and chatted with me about the talk, so I made several interesting new contacts. I've even seen at least one positive review of the talk.

 

A final interesting tidbit. The conference organizer told me he got a panicked phone call on Monday (the day before my talk), asking him what "Farmwald" was going to talk about, and wanting assurances that I wasn't going to mention ParkerVision! He said he told them (politely) that my talk was my business and that they should contact me directly if they had any issues. He thought it was pretty hilarious, and so did many other people!