Mike Noonen of MixComm On How 5G Technology May Improve and Impact Our Lives
An Interview With David Liu
More bandwidth enables a better user experience, especially when it comes to applications like video communication.
The increase in density of devices supported enables a truly scalable “Internet of Things” and enhanced user experience in public spaces such as an airport or stadium.
The decrease in latency will enable applications that require the fastest possible response time such as autonomous driving, remote surgery, or factory floor robotics.
5G infrastructure is being installed around the world. At the same time, most people have not yet seen what 5G can offer. What exactly is 5G? How will it improve our lives? What are the concerns that need to be addressed before it is widely adopted?
In our series, called, How 5G Technology May Improve and Impact Our Lives, we are talking to tech and telecom leaders who can share how 5G can impact and enhance our lives. As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Mike Noonen.
Mike Noonen is the CEO of MixComm, the millimeter wave “Antennas to Algorithms” company based in New Jersey. He has 25 years of experience leading technology businesses resulting in two IPOs and multiple acquisitions. Mike has advised numerous innovative startups such as Ambiq Micro, SiFive, and Mythic. Previously, Noonen was Chairman and co-founder of Silicon Catalyst (the World’s 1st semiconductor incubator, EE Times 2015 Start-up of the Year) as well as EVP at GlobalFoundries and NXP Semiconductors. Noonen has held executive roles at National Semiconductor, Cisco Systems and 8x8. He started his career at NCR Microelectronics teaching mixed-signal ASIC design. He was elected to the Global Semiconductor Alliance Board of Directors. He holds a BSEE from Colorado State University and in 2012 was named the College of Engineering Distinguished Alumni. He holds multiple patents in the areas of Internet telephony and video communications.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
I grew up in Colorado and am the oldest of four brothers. I am an electrical engineer by training with an interest in semiconductor design. However, since I was not a very good designer, of course I gravitated to teaching design and eventually to technical sales of custom integrated circuits (IC). Since ICs go into so many various applications, I was fortunate to be involved early with many technologies that are commonplace today such as wireless networks, digital cameras, digital music, video compression, speech recognition, electric cars, etc.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
I have several interesting stories and it is hard to pick just one that stands out as the “most interesting”. My stories range from launching the world’s first affordable consumer videophone simultaneously on Good Morning America, the Today Show and CBS Morning News to riding a camel in the Sinai Desert for a team building offsite. One of my most impactful experiences was meeting John Cleese of Monty Python fame at an industry event. Mr. Cleese is a tall man (as am I) and he asked if I was Dutch. When I told him I was not Dutch, he said “well you should be”. Not too long after that I was approached by a recruiter to join the management of team of NXP, the spinout of Philips based in The Netherlands. I told the recruiter, “John Cleese himself told me I should be Dutch, so when I can start?”
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My father was an aspiring historian and author. In the dedication of one of his books, he wrote: “If you lose the watch I gave you, it can always be replaced, but a black spot on your name, can never be erased”. This made a lasting impression on me about the importance of being sincere, trustworthy, and dependable.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
It is impossible for me to pick just one person. I have been very fortunate to have been able to work for and learn from some of the legends who shaped the semiconductor industry such as Joe Parkinson, the founder of Micron, Brian Halla, National Semiconductor’s CEO, and Rick Clemmer, NXP CEO. Each one of these leaders taught me something that shaped my career. From them I learned key lessons such as working as a team, deciding “what not to do”, and making mistakes quickly.
You are a successful business leader. Which three-character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
When I was at NXP, we identified six, not just three, behaviors or character traits we thought were critical for the success of a high-performance team. These were:
- Customers First
- Spirit to Win
- Shared Success
This was part of a transformation strategy that was crafted and implemented by my friend and very wise colleague, Clayton Salch. We made sure that everyone in our organization knew what these behaviors meant and why they were important. I believe these character traits were a big contributor to why we able to come out of the 2008 economic downturn and put three years of quarter-on-quarter growth together (and help the company go public in 2010).
Are you working on any new or exciting projects? How do you think that will help?
The most exciting project I am working on is MixComm. MixComm is based in Chatham, NJ and was founded with technology developed at Columbia University with DARPA sponsorship. MixComm develops mmWave radios through a co-design of the antenna, integrated circuits, and algorithms to enable transformative 5G performance compared to the traditional radio frequency systems. At the core of MixComm’s approach is the use of Radio Frequency Silicon on Insulator (RFSOI) semiconductor technology. Building on the inherent advantages of RFSOI, MixComm has developed novel Power Amplifiers with groundbreaking output power and efficiency. MixComm’s unique experience and technology combines to create 5G millimeter-wave radio devices that lead the market in critical performance metrics.
Ok wonderful. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. Like 4G, 5G has many different facets, and I’m sure many will approach this question differently. But for the benefit of our readers can you explain to us what 5G is? How is 5G different from its predecessor 4G?
5G is an evolution of wireless communications. But unlike previous “G”s, it offers big advances in multiple areas:
- Dramatic increase in bandwidth
- Increase in the density of devices supported
- Decrease in the latency of communication
- Decrease in the cost to deliver more bandwidth
- Most robust security
The “fullest” experience of 5G is with the use of mmWave frequencies which delivers the most bandwidth and the best user experience at the lowest cost.
Can you share three or four ways that 5G might improve our lives? If you can please share an example, for each.
Each aspect of 5G’s advances has tangible benefits:
- More bandwidth enables a better user experience, especially when it comes to applications like video communication.
- The increase in density of devices supported enables a truly scalable “Internet of Things” and enhanced user experience in public spaces such as an airport or stadium.
- The decrease in latency will enable applications that require the fastest possible response time such as autonomous driving, remote surgery, or factory floor robotics.
- A decrease in the cost to deliver more bandwidth makes digital services more cost effective and will spread adoption.
- Last, and perhaps most importantly, a managed, seamless network that delivers all these benefits will be more secure whether you are at home, at work, or at public space such a coffee shop.
Just as 4G connectivity and smartphones made entire new industries like ridesharing possible, 5G is predicted to have an even bigger impact on existing and yet to be created businesses.
Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this 5G technology that people should think more deeply about?
While humanity’s relationship with technology can make for fantastic and sometimes chilling science fiction plots, I do not see 5G being an antagonist. For reasons I outlined previously, 5G addresses many of the shortcomings or areas for improvement that earlier communication technologies experienced.
Some have raised the question that 5G might widen the digital divide and leave poor people or marginalized people behind. From your perspective, what can be done to address and correct this concern?
The pandemic has accelerated the evolution of how the world works, learns, shops, and plays. It has also shown that the world’s infrastructure needs an upgrade to keep up with this evolution and make sure no one gets left behind. The rollout of 5G is happening at the right time to level the playing field of coverage and services that people across the globe require and deserve. Post-pandemic, it is encouraging to see corporations and the government recognize the need to invest in infrastructure in general and 5G in particular. In my opinion, we are also seeing progress in the regulatory environment that will reduce barriers to access.
Excellent. We are nearly done. Let’s zoom out a bit and ask a more general question. Based on your experience and success, what are the 5 things you need to create a highly successful career in the telecommunication industry? (Please share a story or example for each.)
Here is my very humble advice:
- Network: never miss an opportunity to meet new people in the industry
- Volunteer: sometimes the best opportunities go to those who seek them out and raise their hand
- The toughest thing in all of high technology is deciding what “not to do”. Focus is essential.
- Become a seasoned presenter. Being comfortable in front of large audiences and being able to tell a story is the common denominator for many successful careers.
- Be polite and gracious. It costs nothing and requires no skills but makes a huge and lasting impression.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
I am far, far from a person of great influence. I am very proud to be an active participant in what I view as the global “Silicon Valley” (going well beyond just geographic definition). In particular, I am proud of my role as founding chairman of Silicon Catalyst, the world’s first incubator for semiconductor startups. I believe Silicon Catalyst has provided resources and guidance to aspiring entrepreneurs who otherwise might not have been able to follow their passion and create something innovative and great.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
I can be found on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/mikenoonen/
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.
About The Interviewer: David Liu is the founder and CEO of Deltapath, an award-winning unified communications company that liberates organizations from the barriers of effective communication. Liu is known for his visionary leadership, organic growth strategies, and future-forward technology. Liu is highly committed to achieving a greater purpose with technology. Liu’s business insights are regularly featured in Forbes, Entrepreneur Magazine, Tech Crunch, and more.