Nieke Roos
29 April 2019

Preparing for its launch, Altum RF steps into the spotlight. With an international management team and an Australian design team, the Eindhoven-based start-up targets high-frequency RF markets.

With the recent announcements of Greg Baker as its CEO and Niels Kramer as its managing director and vice president marketing, Altum RF is now in the spotlight, entering the well-established RF/microwave industry. Baker and Kramer founded the company together with their former colleague, Tony Fattorini. They incorporated in the Netherlands, established an office on the Eindhoven University of Technology campus, secured a design team in Sydney, Australia, and started building a portfolio of high-performance millimeter-wave to digital solutions for next-generation applications.

Niels Kramer manages Altum RF’s newly established office on the Eindhoven University of Technology campus. Photo: Altum RF

“There’s a lot of consolidation going on in the RF market, especially in high-frequency design, where the little fish have been consumed by the larger fish. These larger companies focus on high-volume projects, such as automotive radar and 5G millimeter-wave. Emerging applications that may not be as big today are often left unaddressed. This is one area where we saw an opportunity,” Niels Kramer explains as the trigger for the start-up.

Altum RF is also targeting adjacent markets to these high-volume applications. “For example, to build 5G networks you need test equipment, and to build 5G test equipment, you also need RF components. That market, which is smaller than the handset and infrastructure business, provides a good opportunity for Altum RF as well,” says Kramer. “There are many other opportunities for us in markets such as satellite communication, ISM and aerospace and defense.”

Naturally, there will still be opportunities in traditional applications such as telecom infrastructure. Kramer: “We’ve received quite a bit of encouragement from customers to develop specific components for 5G millimeter-wave that require higher power levels for a longer range of coverage.”

GaAs and GaN

Although established in the Netherlands, Altum RF is an international company. Leveraging more than 25 years of experience at industry-leading companies such as Macom and NXP, the CEO, Greg Baker, resides in the United States. The VP of Engineering, Tony Fattorini, heads the office in Australia, leading a design team of eight. Niels Kramer manages the Eindhoven office, where he takes care of organizational issues and is responsible for strategic marketing.

Altum RF’s growing portfolio of high-performance millimeter-wave to digital solutions includes distributed amplifiers. Photo: Altum RF

Altum RF is a fabless company. By collaborating with selected advanced foundries, it aims to pioneer in emerging technologies. “Our current focus is on gallium arsenide and gallium nitride, for 10 GHz to 100 GHz,” Kramer comments. “Over time, we plan to expand to silicon and silicon germanium. Rather than pushing a particular technology, we’ll be selecting the process on a project-by-project basis depending on which material offers the best advantages for each application. GaAs and GaN are very suitable for amplifiers and LNAs, while Si and SiGe are the preferred choices for achieving a higher level of integration.”

Having an office on the Eindhoven campus has the advantage of being at the forefront of technology development. “The university is very open to helping a start-up company,” Kramer relays from personal experience. “We’re working closely with the electrical engineering research groups of professors Peter Baltus and Bart Smolders. We’re also collaborating with Maxwaves, a TUE spin-off developing a highly innovative antenna concept. There’s a lot of talent for us to tap into. We already have two student interns lined up, who’ll hopefully continue their master projects with us and maybe even join the company after that.” Expanding its Dutch design team is high up on Altum RF’s wish list, right next to expanding the product portfolio.