& cplSiteName &

Next-Gen Challenges of LTE RF Design

Heavy Lifting Analyst Notes
Heavy Lifting Analyst Notes
Heavy Lifting Analyst Notes
6/10/2013
50%
50%

With Long Term Evolution (LTE), you've got the whole world in your hand … or a global ecosystem, anyway. It's going to be a while before you can hold an LTE tablet or smartphone that will work nearly anywhere in the world the way its GSM or UMTS ancestors can.

That's the double-edged sword of LTE: Virtually the entire cellular world is migrating to it, which means enormous economies of scale over the long term. In the short term, operators and regulators are scrounging for every bit of available spectrum for LTE. The result is more than 40 potential bands, roughly 19 of which are currently in use.

Smartphone OEMs would love to have a small set of core LTE bands that they could build into their devices so they will work in most parts of the world. As explained in the new Heavy Reading 4G/LTE Insider, "LTE RF Design: Problems & Opportunities," this desire isn't so much because there's an enormous market for LTE devices that can roam globally. Instead, it's more so that OEMs can have as few SKUs (stock keeping units) as possible for each device model and still tap the widest possible market. Minimizing SKUs will become increasingly important as operators launch LTE in developing markets, where price sensitivity makes it financially difficult to have operator- or country-specific SKUs.

LTE also has the challenge of arriving in the middle of a trend toward ever-thinner smartphones and tablets. Those form factors make it difficult to find room for antennas not only for multiple LTE bands, but also for 3G/2.5G/2G fallback, Bluetooth, NFC, Wi-Fi and GPS. "These devices can become a porcupine," says a Tier 1 U.S. operator executive.

By some estimates, the thin-is-in trend is reducing the space available for antennas and other radio frequency (RF) components by 25 percent per year. For device OEMs, the good news is that there's no shortage of vendors -- Ethertronics Inc., Qualcomm Inc. and SkyCross Inc. among them -- stepping up with antennas and other RF solutions designed to accommodate these and other LTE challenges. The trick is convincing OEMs that hardware such as active antennas are key for not only delivering regional or global LTE roaming, but also for the performance that users expect from 4G.

"They've gotten used to paying pennies for antennas," says one chipset vendor, referring to device OEMs. "To them, it's just a piece of stamped metal. These active antennas and tunable antennas, they consume power and take up more footprint and they cost more. So there's this hesitancy to go to a premium-priced component that they're used to paying pennies for."

What could change their minds? One thing is a reputation for poor performance. As it happens, this report was written just as some iPhone 4 owners were receiving US$15 checks as part of a class action settlement for "Antennagate" -- the mini scandal that erupted after initial buyers reported dropped calls and other signal-related problems based on how they held their iPhone. It's not a stretch to call Antennagate a wake-up moment for vendors and operators about how RF design directly affects everything from brand reputation to the bottom line.

LTE's RF challenges aren't limited to smartphones and tablets. Some chipset vendors predict that LTE-only RF modules (sans antennas) will drop to $20 in volume by the end of this year. That decline means OEMs of digital cameras and other CE devices, as well as commercial products such as video surveillance cameras, will increasingly want to add LTE to their products. Doing so will be easier said than done because those companies typically lack in-house RF design experience. As a result, there will be opportunities for antenna manufacturers and other RF vendors to provide those OEMs with LTE solutions that they can basically drop into their products, rather than taking on the cost and lead time of trying to develop those on their own.

RF systems are one more example of how LTE isn't a market where any vendor can parachute in and assume success. But for those that have what it takes, there's a lot of money to be made by solving all of those problems.

— Tim Kridel, Contributing Analyst, Heavy Reading 4G/LTE Insider


This report, "LTE RF Design: Problems & Opportunities," is available as part of an annual subscription (6 issues per year) to Heavy Reading 4G/LTE Insider, priced at $1,595. Individual reports are available for $900. To subscribe, please visit: www.heavyreading.com/4glte.

(0)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
More Blogs from Heavy Lifting Analyst Notes
As the Internet of Things (IoT) market grows exponentially over the next few years, vendors will start focusing in on IoT platforms and the impact virtualization can have on the market, with rapid development and lower costs as main points of interest.
The Open Compute Project and the shift to SDN and NFV is driving a complete change in the architecture of telecom data centers and infrastructure.
Cable operators have some key hurdles to overcome if they wish to fill the growing mobility needs of small and large businesses alike.
With more and more businesses seeking mobility solutions, cable operators have the chance to carve out an even larger share of the commercial market.
Cable is going big with data analytics, digging into its big data stores, with the hope of garnering information, simplifying operations and improving services and customer care.
From The Founder
The independent evaluation of Nokia's key virtual network functions (VNFs) was a defining moment for the Finnish giant.
Flash Poll
Live Streaming Video
Charting the CSP’s Future
Six different communications service providers join to debate their visions of the future CSP, following a landmark presentation from AT&T on its massive virtualization efforts and a look back on where the telecom industry has been and where it’s going from two industry veterans.
LRTV Documentaries
Leading Lights 2016 Highlights

5|25|16   |   02:26   |   (1) comment


Some of the high points from this year's Leading Lights awards dinner at the Hotel Ella in Austin, Texas.
LRTV Documentaries
Light Reading Hall of Fame 2016

5|23|16   |   05:43   |   (0) comments


Find out who has been welcomed into Light Reading's Hall of Fame this year.
LRTV Custom TV
ZTE TM Forum Highlights

5|23|16   |     |   (0) comments


ZTE showcased its new ICT solutions at TM Forum in Nice.
LRTV Interviews
Gamma's MD on the Emergence of UC2

5|20|16   |     |   (0) comments


Gamma Communications Managing Director David Macfarlane believes the unified communications (UC) market has reached a tipping point.
LRTV Custom TV
The Ultimate 5-Minute Guide to Digital Customer Engagement

5|20|16   |     |   (0) comments


In this short video, you will hear all about how Digital Customer Engagement is the key to meeting customer expectations, keeping them happy, and maximizing revenue. VP Product & Marketing at Pontis, Ofer Razon, breaks down for us the five essential capabilities for successful Digital Customer Engagement. Don’t miss!
LRTV Custom TV
NFV in 2016: Part 1 – NFV Use Cases Get Real

5|19|16   |   05:57   |   (0) comments


Consensus is building around the key use cases for NFV, including managed IP services at the network edge and on customer premises, which can generate new revenues from enterprises/SMBs and consumers; Evolved Packet Core to support LTE migration; and adjacent technologies, such as TAS and IMS, to support VoLTE and next-generation charging and policy control ...
LRTV Custom TV
Nokia's Steve Vogelsang on NFV – Part 3

5|19|16   |     |   (0) comments


Steve Vogelsang discusses the challenges of operational transformation and how Nokia helps its customers. Join Steve at the Big Communications Event in Austin the morning of May 24, on his keynote and optical networking panel.
LRTV Interviews
Level 3: Why UC Is In Demand

5|17|16   |   04:12   |   (1) comment


Andrew Edison, Level 3's senior VP of sales, EMEA region, talks about the drivers of growth in the unified communications services market.
LRTV Custom TV
ARM's OPNFV Action

5|17|16   |     |   (0) comments


At the ARM booth at MWC 2016, Joe Kidder and Bob Monkman speak to Light Reading about OPNFV and their upcoming action.
LRTV Custom TV
Nokia's Steve Vogelsang on NFV – Part 2

5|16|16   |     |   (0) comments


Steve Vogelsang gives advice to service providers on how to move to NFV. Join Steve at the Big Communications Event in Austin the morning of May 24, on his keynote and optical networking panel.
LRTV Interviews
Interoute CTO on NFV's Maturity

5|13|16   |   06:46   |   (1) comment


Matt Finnie, CTO at international operator Interoute, explains how NFV has made life easier in terms of logistics and how Interoute can now enable a 'software-defined moment' for its customers.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
UBBS 2016 Highlights

5|12|16   |     |   (0) comments


Highlights of Huawei's UBBS event in Hong Kong.
Upcoming Live Events
September 13-14, 2016, The Curtis Hotel, Denver, CO
December 6-8, 2016,
June 16-18, 2017, Austin Convention Center, Austin, TX
All Upcoming Live Events
Infographics
A new survey conducted by Heavy Reading and TM Forum shows that CSPs around the world see the move to digital operations as a necessary part of their overall virtualization strategies.
Hot Topics
DT: Telcos Must Escape Vendor Prison
Iain Morris, News Editor, 5/24/2016
AT&T to Start 5G 'Friendly' Trial by 2016 End
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 5/24/2016
WiCipedia: Short Skirts & Back-Up Plans
Eryn Leavens, Special Features & Copy Editor, 5/20/2016
Google Doubles Down on Machine Learning, AI
Mitch Wagner, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading, 5/19/2016
Eurobites: Be More European, EU Tells Streaming Services
Paul Rainford, Assistant Editor, Europe, 5/20/2016
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
In this latest installment of the CEO Chat series, Craig Labovitz, co-founder and CEO of Deepfield, sits down with Light Reading's Steve Saunders in Light Reading's New York City office to discuss how Deepfield fits in with the big data trend and more.
Grant van Rooyen, president and CEO of Cologix, sits down with Steve Saunders, founder and CEO of Light Reading, in the vendor's New Jersey facility to offer an inside look at the company's success story and discuss the importance of security in the telecom industry.
Animals with Phones
Live Digital Audio

Our world has evolved through innovation from the Industrial Revolution of the 1740s to the information age, and it is now entering the Fourth Industrial Revolution, driven by technology. Technology is driving a paradigm shift in the way digital solutions deliver a connected world, changing the way we live, communicate and provide solutions. It can have a powerful impact on how we tackle some of the world’s most pressing problems. In this radio show, Caroline Dowling, President of Communications Infrastructure & Enterprise Computing at Flex, will join Women in Comms Director Sarah Thomas to discuss the impact technology has on society and how it can be a game-changer across the globe; improving lives and creating a smarter world. Dowling, a Cork, Ireland, native and graduate of Harvard Business School's Advanced Management Program, will also discuss her experience managing an international team focused on innovation in an age of high-speed change.