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New Antennas from Ethertronics, Molex & Ploughshare Simplify Wireless Device Designs

Smaller wireless devices, wider bandwidth requirements, and reduced power consumption are driving demand for new antenna solutions. In the past week, three companies announced new antenna products. Some of them may be useful for mobile DTV reception.

Ethertronics, the company that produced the NAB FASTROAD report Embedded FM/TV Antenna System – Final Report, announced its latest technology breakthrough, the Air InteRFace Processing System. Ethertronics said the system combines the company's patented "Isolated Magnetic Dipole" (IMD) antenna technology with its active antenna systems approach to generate multiple radiation patterns from a single antenna structure. A patent-pending algorithm samples and switches between the radiation patterns, selecting the best one to use for the specific environment. As a result, the Air InteRFace Processing System technique can dynamically respond to changing RF conditions fast enough to minimize multipath fading and in turn increase both download speeds and connectivity.

The Air InteRFace Processing system minimizes the impact with surrounding components while being up to 30 percent smaller than competing technologies.

Laurent Desclos, president and CEO of Ethertronics, boasted, "Air InteRFace Processing System is a game-changing technology for the way it maximizes wireless performance and coverage. Through our real-world tests, we have seen a significant effect the Air InteRFace Processing System can have including faster download speeds, and we expect this same caliber of performance with cellular applications. Air InteRFace Processing System is the latest example of Ethertronics' revolutionary approach to antennas: as "Wireless InteRFace Processors" consisting of the antennas themselves, active components, and advanced algorithms. This innovative, systems-based strategy enables wireless device designers to rapidly deploy devices with advanced technology to maximize performance and connectivity for a superior user experience."

Ethertronics said the technology would be available this year.

Molex specifically mentions portable TV receivers in its debut of MobliquA Bandwidth Enhancing Antenna Technologies. Morten Christensen, RF research manager at Molex, explains, "Traditional passive antenna structures are based on meandered antenna patterns, with limitations on manufacturing tolerances and mechanical properties. The MobliquA technology enables simple mechanical and robust antenna designs that minimize efforts needed for iterative retuning during each build cycle." Molex said the architecture supports both single and dual feed RF architecture within the same antenna structure, with up to 20 dB of isolation between the input ports without sacrificing bandwidth. This simplifies optimization of antenna impedances to match different "RF engines".

The MobliquA technology also provides a high degree of immunity from metal objects in the antenna volume and it enables utilization of RF decoupled or grounded parts. This could be particularly useful in tablets with a metal backing. Molex said the "MobliquA technology is designed to improve impedance bandwidth in any application with a wireless interface antenna, including mobile phones, smart phones, portable TVs, and standard antennas in industrial applications."

Unlike the previous two technologies, the new Ploughshare antenna technology was developed primarily for fixed applications but might have some use in larger portable devices. Toby Proctor of Ploughshare Innovations said, "The burgeoning demand for wireless communications has led to an array of standards for different applications, and considerable market pull to combine multiple protocols into one device. This novel antenna provides new flexibility for OEMs working in these market segments, and we are looking for a partner that has the capability to take a proven design concept and adapt it for commercial applications."

The Ploughshare wideband antenna is a cylindrical "top-hat" shape using a novel capacitive coupling structure to provide good RF performance across multiple bands. One current circuit board mountable prototype has an omnidirectional pattern and 5 dBi gain the 2.1 to 5 GHz band. At this frequency, the antenna has an overall height of 1.5 cm and a footprint diameter of 2 cm. The bill of materials for the antenna is expected to cost around 10 cents in volume. Ploughshare claims the radiation efficiency of the prototype antenna is more than 95% with a 1.92:1 VSWR.

Ploughshare also has a larger design prototype that would be more useful for broadcast receivers. It is capable of operating over frequencies from 100 MHz to 6 GHz. Unfortunately its size of 10 cm high with a footprint diameter of 20 cm makes it impractical for hand held devices, although it could be useful for a device such as a combined FM-TV receiver and Wi-Fi router.