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Active antenna prototype maximises coverage, data rate

Posted: 02 May 2013  Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:tuneable antennas  active antennas  data rate  LTE  beam steering 

Smartphones are getting a new class of antennas. This year, tuneable antennas that can dial multiple frequencies are being integrated into handsets. Prototypes of antennas with beam steering that promise better coverage and data rates are now in the lab and will probably be available in handsets next year.

"We have been working for many years on active antennas and are starting to see them adopted now—we're at the inflection point," said Jeff Hamblin, chief scientist at Ethertronics.

"We should see more tuneable antennas in production this year and next," said Shamblin in an interview with EE Times after giving a talk on the topic at DESIGN West. "A lot of companies have developed tuneable capacitors for antenna tuning, so the components are there and cost effective now," he said.

Today's active antennas can adjust impedance and frequency response to cover a set of frequency bands. The versions still in prototype stage can change the length and shape of radiation elements to focus beams in specific directions, maximising coverage and data rate.

Last year, Ethertronics worked on 200 custom antenna designs for handsets. When active antennas mature it may be possible to define four or five standard antennas that could be used by most devices, saving time and money.

LTE, 3G, and 2G support

LTE handsets need to support as many as 40 different spectrum bands to handle key LTE, 3G and 2G services.

The tuneable capability is in high demand now. Today's LTE handsets need to support as many as 40 different spectrum bands to handle key LTE, 3G and 2G services. Engineers are still working on how to deliver a commercially viable world phone covering all the global LTE bands, Shamblin said.

Steering into the gains
Ethertronics delivered its first active antenna in the Samsung Galaxy S2 for Japan's Docomo in December 2011. "It's the only one we've done so far," he said.

Others are working on similar designs including competitors Amphenol and Tyco as well as handset makers doing in-house designs.


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