Feature Article

November 28, 2012

Integrated Tunable Antennas Reduce Dropped Calls

Despite improvements in radio receivers, cell phones and smartphones continue to drop calls or experience weak signals in certain areas of the network. Apple learned this lesson last year when newer iPhone models were dropping calls.

Redesigning the antenna helped the iPhone maker address the problem.

 Hence, several smartphone makers have adopted compact integrated antenna tuners to improve the performance of these mobile devices.

The Strategy Analyti report, “Outlook for Active Antennas & Tunable Components in Cellular Phones,” shows that several popular smartphones with integrated antenna tuners were shipped in 2011. And the first wave of such tuners came from suppliers like Peregrine Semiconductor, RF Micro Devices (RFMD) and others.

The report focuses on tunable RF components, and compares different approaches and suppliers, while providing a forecast of the market through 2017.

According to Christopher Taylor, director of the Strategy Analytics RF & Wireless Components market research service, “Mobile devices that support 4G, 3G and 2G in multiple bands have complex RF front-ends, with compromises in antenna performance that can degrade calls, as Apple learned last year. Tunable components can reduce dropped calls and improve battery life, while simplifying the cell phone.”

As a result, the research firm’s director of GaAs and Compound Semiconductor market, Eric Higham, thinks antennas with tunable impedance match will emerge as an important piece of the cell phone RF front-end.

Antenna specialists including Ethertronics and Skycross – in combination with front-end component suppliers including Skyworks, RFMD, Avago Technology, TriQuint Semicondictor and Murata – will likely compete aggressively in this segment using GaAs, CMOS, RF MEMS and voltage-dependent dielectric variable capacitor technologies.

The new ‘antenna tuner’ product category will inevitably shake up the existing order among cell phone RF front-end component vendors, and enable new entrants like WiSpry to gain traction in the market.

Edited by Braden Becker

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