Interview with Kevin Schoenrock from Open RF Association

  • Kevin Schoenrock - President, Open RF Association

The Open RF Association has been working on its vision to enable wireless device OEMs to benefit from maximum RF front end choices across chipset platforms providing lower costs, highest performance, reduced time-to-market and optimized inventory. To learn more about the association, everything RF interviewed Kevin SchoenrockPresident of the Open RF Association.

Q. Can you tell us about the Open RF Association? When was it founded and what is its objective?

Kevin Schoenrock: The Open RF Association is an industry consortium that was founded in 2020 by a diverse group of global chipset manufacturers and RF front-end vendors. The organizations' mission is to enable an interoperable platform between 5G chipsets and the RF Front End (RFFE) driving best-in-class solutions to market faster.

Q. What benefits is the Open RF Association trying to bring to the industry?

Kevin Schoenrock: Open standards have helped bring greater innovation and increased choices to other parts of the telecom industry in many critical areas. OpenRF will enable 5G cellular device OEMs to select compliant RFFE devices that will operate seamlessly with OpenRF member’s 5G chipsets. This gives OEMs the maximum choice in selecting RFFE solutions, and as a result, lowers development costs, reduces time-to-market and design risk, establishes the highest performance utilizing a platform for future innovations, and improves supply chain implementation across the breadth of OEM consumer mobile products.

Q. What are the different Open RF Working Groups? What is the objective of each working group?

Kevin Schoenrock: There are five working groups within OpenRF, each with a unique mission: 

  • Working Group 1 is focused on creating a register map framework by leveraging industry standards to maximize the configurability and effectiveness of the RF front end.
  • Working Group 2 is creating a Hardware Abstraction Layer (HAL) that harmonizes/standardizes the SW interface between RFIC and RFFE by creating an RFIC and RFFE agnostic SW interface.
  • Working Group 3 is developing an ecosystem of common RFFE and RFIC interface and hardware architectural features creating interoperable blocks while enabling differentiation and system innovation.
  • Working Group 4 is tasked with issues around RF power management and is working to define and develop industry-leading approaches for RF power management.
  • And finally, Working Group 5 oversees the development of our compliance program, which is needed to ensure interoperability for different RF front end and chipset platforms in the open ecosystem. 

Q. Can you tell us about the 'Hardware RF front end/RFIC' working group and what it has developed so far?

Kevin Schoenrock: Working Group 3 is supported by all of the Association’s members along with inputs from OpenRF’s strategic advisors. The working group has been especially busy and I’m pleased with their progress. Because of their dedication, the Phase 1.0 specification will be released this summer, less than one year since OpenRF’s formation! The Phase 1.0 specification includes pin naming conventions, module behavioral characteristics and integrated RFFE module specifications. It will also contain the first RFIC interoperability blocks surrounding the harmonization of Rx LNA characteristics. Phase 1.1 will be released by the end of 2021 building upon the requirements introduced in Phase 1.0. 

Q. When using standard products built on an open architecture, will overall RF system performance be sacrificed?

Kevin Schoenrock: “Standard product” does not mean a lack of innovation. In fact, open architectures create an opportunity for companies to be more innovative. The OpenRF standard will provide the framework in the software and hardware that addresses common challenges, freeing up R&D resources for other performance-related innovations. By outlining how advanced RF feature sets in devices interact and addressing the compatibility challenges, we are helping the industry to explore other ways of improving system performance. 

Q. What can companies do to differentiate their offerings when using OpenRF solutions? How and where can they add their differentiation?

Kevin Schoenrock: OpenRF does not mandate features or require that members build their hardware in a particular way, or have their software perform in a particular way. We are standardizing the RF interfaces, ensuring the software flexibility and providing the basic hardware building blocks that will allow our members to optimize their products to meet their own performance metrics and customize the product in a way that meets their customer’s demands. By ensuring product interoperability across the entire RF ecosystem, we are reducing the need for custom RF front-end functions and features across platforms, paving the way for plug and play interoperability. This creates tremendous opportunities for members to innovate and differentiate in other areas – areas that matter for their business goals. 

Q. Can you tell us more about the design specifications of 5G device radio frequency front-end modules (RFFEM)? How can it help to accelerate 5G interoperability?

Kevin Schoenrock: The Phase 1.0 specification will include initial customized registry maps for core RFFE modules including DRx and LB / MHB / UHB S-PADs (Switch Power Amplifier Duplexer). This establishes common use across platforms lowering design risk, improving cycle time, lowering cost in both hardware as well as software configurability. The goal of these requirements is to ensure interoperability, optimize configurations and standardize certain specifications enabling interchangeable RFFE to RFIC solutions. Combined with a HAL interface and compliance program, OpenRF will deliver upon its mission to provide OEMs lower development costs, reduced time-to-market with less design risk, highest performance and improved supply chains at a larger scale.

Q. Who should join the Open RF Association? What are the advantages of Membership? What are the different types of Memberships offered and how much do they cost?

Kevin Schoenrock: Open RF is open to any for profit, not for profit or government entity, and is particularly targeted at companies in the manufacturing of wireless, or beyond just smartphone, chipsets, RF front-end products, OEM vendors or any related industry companies. OpenRF is committed to expanding functional hardware and software interoperability for RF front end and chipset platforms, so if a company is interested in contributing to the development of an open framework for the RFIC/RFEE 5G eco-system, we would welcome their participation.

Joining is very easy. Companies that are considering joining the Open RF Association can visit and download the membership application there. There are several different membership levels available to suit any company’s goals and level of interest.

Obviously, the biggest benefit in becoming a member is access to the OpenRF specifications. Access to specifications is an integral part of developing solutions that address critical issues while ensuring we are able to create and sustain an open and interoperable RF ecosystem. 

Another benefit is the ability to provide input and contribute to the development of the specifications, whether through working group participation to leadership within those working groups. As an association, we are working together to create an open RF front-end ecosystem, so member’s input and contribution to specification development is essential to OpenRF’s success. 

Q. Who all are members of this alliance? How many members do you have currently?

Kevin Schoenrock: OpenRF is supported by a diverse group of global chipset providers, RF front-end vendors and device manufacturers. The Association’s founding members include Broadcom Inc., Intel Corporation, MediaTek Inc., Murata Manufacturing Co., Ltd., Qorvo, Skyworks and Samsung. New members include NI, MixComm, Rohde & Schwarz and TMY Technologies. There are several additional companies that are in the process of joining. We are pleased with the level of interest we are receiving from across the industry. 

Q. What stage are you at right now? In terms of timelines, what is your plan for the alliance?

Kevin Schoenrock: Less than one year from formation, the Association is right on pace and getting ready to release our first specification this summer. We have nearly doubled our membership since we launched, signing up key strategic advisors. In addition, we are initiating plans for industry benchmark studies. As we progress thru 2021, we plan to issue updates to our Phase 1.0 specification including initial compliance requirements while continuing to build membership and brand. As President, I would like to congratulate all our current, and future, members on the successes to date. I am truly excited about the impact OpenRF will have on the industry.

About Kevin Schoenrock

Kevin Schoenrock brings a wealth of leadership and vision with ~20 years of Mobile industry experience focused on the smartphone market along with assignments in IoT, automotive and infrastructure. He has held various leadership roles in Sales, Product Marketing, Technology Development, Business Development and Strategic Marketing at Sawtek, TriQuint Semiconductor, RF360 JV and Qorvo. Currently serving in the capacity of Corporate Strategy and Technology Planning, Kevin drives the long-range business plans and strategic objectives for the Mobile division while aligning technology and investment initiatives across the corporation. Prior to this, he led the Product Marketing Team for the Mobile product portfolio. He earned his MSEE and MBA degrees from the University of South Florida.

Click here to learn more about the OpenRF Association.