Hardware

3 Questions: Antennas get smart

Having smart antennas on APs reduces the number needed to cover the same area by a factor of four. How should an enterprise approach smart antenna technology?


By Carl Weinschenk

With Robert Warner, vice president of sales and marketing for "smart antenna" chipmaker Motia. Experts have tabbed smart antennassend and receive devices that use sophisticated processing techniques to improve signalsas a technology to watch this year. Motia recently signed a deal to supply its new Javelin chip to Motorola.

This interview originally appeared in the IT Business Edge weekly report on Empowering the Mobile Workforce. To see a complete listing of IT Business Edge weekly reports or sign up for this free technology intelligence agent, visit www.itbusinessedge.com.


Question:
How potent are "smart antennas"?

Warner: We are seeing two- to three-times range increases using smart antennas on one end. That increases to three- to four-times with smart antennas on both [the send and receive sides]. What that means for an enterprise is that just having smart antennas on APs reduces the number needed to cover the same area by a factor of four.


Question: How should an enterprise approach smart antenna technology?

Warner: I think the wireless design engineer in the enterprise probably knows something about smart antennas. It would be a good idea for the CIO to listen to the RF expert. We think that smart antenna technology is so powerful that it will eventually become standard in all access points and client cards. There is a cost to doing this, and the chip does consume [more] power. The beauty is that because a smart antenna increases the signal-to-noise ratio, a user actually can get the same performance powered down if he prefers. So a laptop battery can last quite a lot longer. The other thing is that because the technology uses multipath—RF reflections—in an office or a home, it can actually reduce the dead spots that might have been experienced with previous technology. It turns those negatives into opportunities.


Question: Motorola's involvement must bring some validation to the technology?

Warner: Certainly, whether Motorola is a first customer or 50th customer, we are aligned with a great name. They know wireless better than 99 percent of companies out there. Having them agree to use the technology is certainly a good thing. It's quite a flexible architecture that allows Motorola to do quite a number of things in its product life...I believe they will use it as an "accessory." [You house it] outside the AP. Say you bring home an AP. You don't have the range you need because it's a very large home. Instead of returning it, you buy a special box [with a Javelin chip], plug it in, and get a signal where you need it.

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