Software Forms New Antenna

This week at the Antenna Systems 2004 conference in Denver, cellular antenna designer InterDigital Communications announced a move into the Wi-Fi space, putting an emphasis on innovation on the client end with a new design that uses software algorithms to create beams for signals, rather than relying just on an omni-directional signal.

Called Adaptive Interference Management (AIM), the antenna designs are for use by chipmakers, OEMs and ODMs. 32-year-old InterDigital designs and licenses the antennas, but leaves the manufacturing to others.

“People think of smart antennas as being for infrastructure only,” says Tom Gorsuch, director of product management for InterDigital, “but the innovation here is moving it to the client/handheld. ”

Client systems that InterDigital has made reference designs for include handheld phones, PC cards, USB sticks and dongles. AIM will also work with 2G, 2.5G, and 3G cellular terminals. The company, based in King of Prussia, Penn., also has AIM antenna designs for Wi-Fi access points. The company’s tests show AIM will increase performance at the edge of an access point’s range by more than 80%.

Gorsuch describes the direction mode of an AIM antenna as being “like phased array antennas, but done cheaper.” The beam forming of the antenna is all done in the InterDigital software, so new silicon doesn’t have to be designed. This leads to “improved coverage by several dB, higher data rates, and improved capacity,” he says. Gorsuch says a bare AIM antenna has about a 6dBi gain, but that drops a bit once incorporated into a WLAN client device.

The beam forming directive mode gives AIM a higher data rate, but the antenna’s software also supports an omni-directional mode as needed, so it can perform just as well as any existing antenna. While it will continuously scan the environment to see what the best beam mode is, Gorsuch says it works with the Wi-Fi chip as it goes in and out of sleep mode, so there’s little worry of it using extra power.

The reference designs and licenses for AIM antennas are available from InterDigital now.

Wi-Fi Planet Conference

Want to learn more about smart antennas?

Join us at the next Wi-Fi Planet Conference & Expo, November 30 to December 2, 2004 at the San Jose McEnery Convention Center in San Jose, Calif.

InterDigital will be exhibiting its wares and speaking about the topic to all.

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