Manufacturers are faced with the challenge of finding space within smartphone devices to
place dual antennas, with Cavendish Kinetics looking to eliminate this problem with new antenna tuning technology. It will look to combat the problem of ‘switching’, which is commonly used to control transmission between two smartphone antennas.
Speaking to Mobile, Lars Johnsson, VP of product marketing at Cavendish Kinetics, explained that it is looking to disrupt the ‘switch companies’ and lead the market, with the company already in talks with a number of mobile operators. He claims that the main issue is educating the network operators on the dual tuning technology, an area that Cavendish is focusing on.
He said: ‘As operators continue to carry out solutions to their networks they will add more spectrum and antenna tuning will grow into the smartphone market. We talk to the leading operators, such as Vodafone, T-Mobile and AT&T, about how they can implement the technology without significant cost increases to phones. Dual antenna technology is a direction in which they’re heading and we are educating operators so they can utilise their spectrum more effectively. Over the next two to three years this kind of technology will make very significant progress in the market to address the challenges faced by manufacturers.’
Johnsson explained that manufacturers are faced with the problem of adjusting antennas to fit in with smartphone design. He said: ‘The experience we have had over the years with phone makers is that they pick a chip set, they decide how big the screen is, they stick in all the multimedia and the size of the battery, and then they make it as thin and small as possible. Finally, they turn it over to the engineers to put an antenna into that small space.
‘Finding a space for the antenna is the challenge we face. It’s very hard for smartphone makers to build devices with the space for antennas that support frequency bands, this is why tuning technology is being used in phones.’
Cavendish Kinetics uses tiny micro electrical mechanical systems (MEMS) to build and supply tuners that are used in smartphone radios to boost the radio performance of LTE phones. It has worked with ZTE to develop the Nubia Z9, a smartphone that is powered by dual antenna tuning technology. Johnsson added: ‘MEMS-based tuning is a new development and is just starting to get noticed. The technology is hard to get right but we are the first company that is shipping commercially. No one else has proven themselves to come to the size and cost structure that we can offer today. We’re trying to lead in this market.’
Johnsson explained that the dual antenna tuning technology allows Cavendish to change the characteristics of an antenna using electromagnetic waves.
He said: ‘We needed to apply tuning technology in order to fit antennas that are small enough to use inside smartphones but good enough to work well. The antenna needs to change in order to capture spectrum radio waves so we optimised radio performance by using electromagnetic waves. The energy in the radio wave excites the structure of the antenna. The physical dimension of the antenna remains the same but we change its electrical characteristics to capture longer or shorter wave lengths.’
According to Johnsson, the Nubia Z9 is one of a kind and uses completely different technology from Huawei’s P8, which also incorporates dual antenna design. He explained that while Cavendish changes the physical dimension of the antennas, Huawei simply uses switching to swap transmission between two antennas. ‘Huawei has a dual antenna phone – in terms of LTE the standard defines that every phone needs to have two antennas to receive signal,’ he said. ‘The antenna at the bottom of the phone sometime works better than the top and you can detect that and switch it from the top to the bottom – it’s called antenna switching and a lot of companies actually do that.’
Johnsson added that while switching is commonly used to control transmission, the technology causes more harm than good: ‘Today there are some rudimentary tuning methods in use based on simple switching technology, where you don’t achieve the levels of performance that the MEMS component can provide. Switches are being used today but much of the performance gain that you could get from switching the bands gets lost in the switch itself. It’s a very bad problem.’