Smarter Than Your Average Antenna - Page 2

By Gerry Blackwell

February 18, 2004

Motia claims similar benefits for products based on its technology. Integrating the Motia technology into just the access point in a network increases gain by 13 decibels (dB), the company says. Using it in both access point and client device increases gain by 18 dB.

"That translates into a two- to three-times increase in range or a three- to four-times increase in range," says Motia's chief scientist Jack Winters.

The Motia technology also helps mitigate multipath fading -- loss of signal strength due to interference within a network -- and it reduces the transmit power required, especially on the client side.

"And that reduces interference into other systems and makes systems work better together," Winters explains

The pay-off, he says, is improved return on investment for enterprises building Wi-Fi WLANs. Smart antenna technology will reduce their total cost of ownership.

"You're looking in some cases at a four-fold reduction in the number of access points required for the same coverage -- or for better coverage," Winters says.

"But it's much more than just the cost of the access point equipment itself. You've also got to pull the wire -- Ethernet and also power -- to each of those access points. Plus there are issues of management."

Motia sees applications for its technology across most Wi-Fi markets. It expects the Javelin chipset will be built into antennas that could be plugged into antenna ports on existing home or enterprise access points.

Winters says retailers experience a 30-percent return rate on access points purchased for home and home office use, mostly due to poor performance resulting from wireless propagation anomalies.

"A vendor can sell an access point with an antenna port. The consumer buys that box and uses it, and if it works well, great. If not, instead of the consumer taking the access point back, [the vendor] can say, 'Here's a smart antenna that plugs into this access point [and fixes the problem.]'"

Motia sees the market for its product developing in three phases. First, manufacturers building it into after-market products, then into access points, and finally into network access cards.

"We foresee a great need for access point vendors to differentiate themselves in the marketplace," says VP sales and marketing Robert Warner. "And we see adding our technology as a very good way for them to do that."

"While we're not counting on it, it's quite possible smart antenna technology will be prevalent in many if not all access points in future - not next year perhaps, but in a couple of years."

The Motia chipset -- smart antenna technology in general -- has applications outside Wi-Fi as well, including in GPS (Global Positioning System) and cellular.

"What Motia does is try to enable smart antennas in a wide array of systems, but we don't build systems," explains Winters.

Wi-Fi is the main focus for now, though. While Motorola is the only manufacturer committed to using the technology so far, Warner claims the company has already seen "a lot of interest."

"We see a lot of interest from consumer-oriented equipment vendors for the add-on devices - the accessory market is not as price-competitive as the access point market itself," he notes.

"On the other hand, many of the enterprise-oriented vendors like the fact that the technology can improve the level of service [in WLANs]."

Can smart antenna technology deliver on all this promise? Stay tuned.

The technology will get even better, though, these vendors say. Vivato will have a switch product later this year designed for indoor use that will deliver the same kind of performance benefits as the first-generation product offers in outdoor deployments.

Motia says chipset prices will come down and its products will get smaller -- though it already fits with no problem in PCMCIA and mini-PCI-format cards.

Motia and Vivato, meanwhile, are just two players in this space. Others include Bandspeed, which designs access points incorporating smart antennas, AirGo Networks, which has chip products and zeeWAVES Systems, which builds smart antenna products.

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