Radio Frequency Technology

They' re invisible, but radio waves connect people.

The scope of radio wave utilization seems to broaden with each passing day. As this evolution continues, Alps' technical strength play an important role in the ubiquitous society.

It started 100 years ago toward the promise of wireless communications

"Whenever, wherever, with whomever."
Perhaps we think of this as a handy description of today’s ubiquitous society. But haven’t people been thinking the same thing for more than a century?

Just over a century ago, successful experiments in wireless communications were being conducted on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean (*1). This was the age when the thought that wireless communication with somebody beyond the horizon was impossible gave way to the idea that "no matter how far away, you can always stay in touch."

This was the period when people began to dream of "whenever, wherever, with whomever."

(*1) The researcher as entrepreneur

The Italian physicist Marconi conducted successful experiments with wireless technology in 1895. Two years later, he established a wireless communications company. In 1901, successful wireless communications experiments were carried out on both sides of the Atlantic. Commercial communications started in 1907. After being awarded the Nobel Prize he was honored by the governments of Italy and Japan.

From wireless communication to communications technology.

Radio waves are the main player in wireless communications. Radio waves have cycles, and the number of cycles a radio wave completes in one second is known as its frequency. The unit of frequency measurement is the Hertz (symbol "Hz") (*2). The length of one vibration is called its wavelength. Wavelengths become shorter as the frequency becomes higher.

Radio Frequency Spectrum enlargedimage

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Radio waves have the characteristic of increasing the volume of information that can be communicated. Over time, exploiting the characteristics of radio waves for the benefit of society has brought about technological development. Currently the use of several frequency bands is possible. The allocation of radio waves is fixed by law for each frequency band

In the second half of the 20th Century the need to convey information expanded to include voice, screen images, data, movies, etc. Radio frequencies have steadily become higher. In the ubiquitous society we will want to use even higher frequencies. Radiofrequency technology is keenly needed in the control of high frequency radio waves.

(*2) The bright light of the researcher’s life

The unit of measurement used when we tune into a radio station, the Hertz, is named for the German physicist, Heinrich Rudolf Hertz. Hertz’s belief that the velocity of radio waves was theoretically equal to the velocity of light was proven in work on electromagnetism conducted by the British physicist, James Clark Maxwell. Hertz left several other accomplishments, but his life was as transient as light itself and he died of illness at the young age of 37.

An eye for the invisible essentials for radio frequency technology.

There are several obstacles to overcome in designing a circuit to control radio frequencies (such as microwaves).

Firstly, the problem of wave interference, since wavelengths become shorter as radio frequencies become higher. Accordingly, in electronic circuits, a short length of copper wire acts as an antenna, absorbing radio waves from electronic circuits. Conversely, radio waves are attracted to circuits of the same wavelength. Radio frequencies are much more likely to cause radio interference among components and circuits.

In addition, "parasitic elements" are a major concern at in radio frequencies. Parasitic capacitance occurs between the components and the spaces within the circuit. Parasitic capacitance places an unintended energy load on the circuit. It can be restrained to some extent but cannot be completely excluded. It does not present a problem at low frequencies, but in radio frequency it takes on the form of a so-called "invisible circuit (a parasitic element)" in which frequency currents flow where there are no circuits, and this has wide-ranging effects on operation.

In the case of radio frequencies, even a minor pattern can become an unintended "invisible component (a parasitic element)," with a coil, condenser or resistor creating a phenomenon quite different from that intended by the engineer.

To perceive these "invisible circuits and components" is an extremely important factor in the design of radio frequency circuits. However, accumulated know-how and expertise acquired over many years are indispensible to "see" these invisible elements. This is a matter of major importance in the design of radio frequency circuits.

Development of radio wave technology enhances comfortable lifestyles.

Alps Electric has started manufacturing radio components in 1949. In 1954, we commercialized Japan’s first tuner switch for televisions and committed ourselves to the development of communications-related technology in various frequency bands.

We have overcome the problems related to radio frequency circuitry design. We are an early adopter of computer-aided engineering (CAE) to analyze and simulate radio frequency circuits. Radio frequency CAE conducts simulations, including those of "invisible circuits and components (parasitic elements)" based on the knowledge that our engineers have gained over years of experience. As a result of this they are able to compute precisely the characteristics of each radio wave.

Mobile phones and other personal information and communication devices commonly use radio frequencies. Under the circumstances, Alps Electric continues to provide high-value-added products in the information and telecommunications area, such as Bluetooth® modules (*3) and wireless LAN modules, based on our real accomplishments in the development of transceiver units for mobile phones, terrestrial digital broadcasting units, and so on.

Today, as automobiles become more computerized, they are commonly capable of being linked to smartphones, portable music players, and other appliances; it is expected that in the future, the demand will also grow for functions for sharing information and communication between automobiles and between driveways.

Through the development and production of electronic components used in these information and communications devices, Alps Electric will help realize the dream that people harbored a century ago.

(*3) Why Blue Tooth?

Bluetooth® is a short-range wireless connectivity standard. The communications area, known as a personal area network (PAN), is around 10 meters. It is primarily used to operate music data on mobile phones. The origin of the name is King Harald Bluetooth®, who unified and brought peace to Denmark.

Terrestrial digital broadcast (1-seg) TV tuner for cars

Terrestrial digital broadcast
(1-seg) TV tuner for cars

TV tuner module for 1- and 3-seg broadcasts

TV tuner module for 1- and
3-seg broadcasts