by Dan Nobbe, VP of RF and Radar Systems, MatrixSpace
Dan brings a formidable track record to the MatrixSpace team. He leads development for RF and radar systems and holds advisory roles across the industry, accelerating the development of RF integration into integrated circuit products. His breakthrough technologies include RF SOI Antenna switches and Tuning products as well as CMOS power amplifiers which led to changes in the cell phone industry technology adoption, phone functionality and design. Dan has held executive positions at Peregrine Semiconductor, Motorola and Glenayre in the areas of research and patent development – he’s been granted over 50 patents. He’s been published in a number of industry leading journals covering diverse topics such as power amplifiers, semiconductor device models, GPS systems, field effect transistors and CMOS integrated circuits, receiving over 350 citations.
Here he discusses his background and how he arrived at MatrixSpace at this exciting time in the industry.
My passion for engineering is driven by curiosity. I took toys apart as a child to understand how they worked before I ever played with them. I built model rockets, models, Legos, and I read a lot.
The area that fascinated me most was radio communication. How can you receive signals from satellites, local devices, and all corners of the earth at the same time? I studied RF communication at the University of Missouri-Rolla then my masters at the University of Texas-Arlington, with additional coursework at the University of California-Berkeley. I still find the study and development of wireless communications challenging and fun.
Early in my career I had the opportunity to work on groundbreaking projects at Motorola. We developed some of the first small cell base station products in the PCS band, before the band was fully allocated and standards were set. We successfully demonstrated the capabilities to various cellular operators and launched the product into production, including sales to Nippon Telephone and Telegraph (NTT). We also studied the technical merits of deploying our newly created PCS system across cable TV networks. In a meeting with CableLabs they suggested we run the communications network all the way to the house – the beginning of cable modems and data services through CATV. I was also involved with Motorola’s early work with CDMA technology. We worked with the Qualcomm team when they had a few test vans equipped with tons of equipment as they proved out the CDMA system. From there I studied system operation and interference scenarios and wrote an internal paper that guided product specifications.
With Motorola’s cell phone division I got into RF integrated circuit design. I saw the integration trend and the need to be in integrated circuits if I wanted to continue with transistor-level circuit design. I designed an IC that shipped in a few versions of TDMA phones for AT&T and led the development of eight other ICs.
Next I joined Peregrine Semiconductor and opened its Chicago design center. While leading the engineering and corporate research teams, we created and shipped the first high power RF switches with a CMOS SOI technology. Initially, our competitors laughed at us, then bought from us, and eventually followed us (I’ve seen this happen a few times now). They shut down their internal GaAs pHEMT fabs and joined the SOI movement.
A modern cell phone contains over 300 RF switch throws or paths – the SOI technology enabled the small size multiband phone used today, and we shipped several billion devices. We also created high performance CMOS power and low noise amplifiers. The combination of high performance and CMOS integration was a first. Peregrine grew from a startup to an IPO in 2012 and then an acquisition by Murata in 2014.
More recently I’ve been working with a startup that is creating a new concept for satellites and earth imaging, called Skeyeon. The satellites will operate at lower altitudes than any other system today, bringing about several benefits to radio, optics, and immunity to space junk. I’ve created an patented, radio system and led its patent and regulatory activities.
I’ve been awarded over 55 patents to date and considered the lead inventor on the vast majority. These patents span creations and designs from my time at Motorola, Peregrine, and Skeyeon. I’ve filed new patents at MatrixSpace and already been granted one.
At MatrixSpace we started with a blank sheet of paper and captured system goals and architected an entire new class of products – what I love to do. I lead a team with over 230 years of combined RF circuit and system experience spanning companies such as Motorola, Nokia, Google, Peregrine Semiconductor, Shure, EPIQ and MIT Lincoln Labs. We’ve produced billions of products in areas from RFICs to cellular infrastructure with over 70 combined patents issued and more pending.
I’m still driven by curiosity— but it has gone from ‘how does it work’ to ‘why doesn’t this exist today’. The work at MatrixSpace is ripe with incredible opportunities – creating new solutions that address a wide range of customer needs.