The end of the old wireless?

Portable wireless terminals are designed and manufactured with a lot of analog RF hardware. But in the future, a new design approach could change things.

Today’s portable wireless terminals are designed and manufactured with a lot of analog RF hardware that is dedicated to specific air interface standards like CDMA, GSM, Blue Tooth or 802.11b.

Worse yet, future mobile terminals will have to accommodate multiple air interface standards as well as achieve backward compatibility to legacy 2.5G and 2G systems. But building these new mobile terminals using current approaches looks as though it might mean a significant increase in component part count and cost.

Enter E-tenna Corporation’s RF2IF to solve the problem. This new product apparently achieves hardware commonality for multiple functions and standards by starting at the antenna and working inward with reconfigurable hardware covering RF to IF (RF2IF) frequencies.

A number of companies are providing reconfigurable hardware that is focused on the power amplifier and IF to baseband section of wireless terminals as well as software that goes with it.

However, e-tenna believes that none of them are integrating the off-chip analog components such as the antenna, diplexer, switches and filters that are dedicated to a specific function or interface standard. e-tenna plans to achieve hardware commonality across a number of platforms by replacing the antenna and filters with integrated reconfigurable antenna/filters.

Indeed in an e-tenna design, all RF filters, diplexers and switches are replaced by two separate antennas, and MEMS technology is used to tune the antennas over the required frequency bands. An antenna control unit (ACU) is an additional baseband function needed to control the antennas, but it adds negligible cost and complexity to the system, according to the company.

And, although the e-tenna approach requires two antennas, the filter blocks and the switch/diplexer, which are part of current architectures, are eliminated. Additionally, e-tenna’s tunable antenna approach results in a smaller size with much higher efficiencies and impedance optimization for transmit and receive functions.

Benefits of the approach include the elimination of several separate discrete analog RF components, a simplification of the RF system block diagram for multi-mode implementations and increased performance for higher data rates using a more efficient antenna.

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