& 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
5G will be the first cellular technology to launch in an era when the Internet is routinely weaponized, which will require CSPs to radically rethink their security strategies.
There's lots of pre-5G activity in the mobile market and it's highlighting the need for new test and measurement tools.
The combination of cloud, artifical intelligence (AI) and applications development could be very powerful for communications service providers.
You'll probably hear a lot of 5G flannel in Barcelona this year – but the Global 5G Test Summit promises to get beyond the hype.
As the fiber network landscape grows increasingly complex, effective network monitoring is becoming more important than ever, and key to carrier competitiveness.
From The Founder
Cisco's Conrad Clemson, recently promoted to head up the company's Service Provider Apps & Platforms developments, talks to Light Reading's Founder and CEO Steve Saunders about how he's bringing cloud video, mobile and virtualization together to empower network operators.
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 Custom TV
What WTTX Can Deliver

2|23|17   |     |   (0) comments


Mohamed Madkour explains the benefits of WTTX while Dimitris Mavrakis discusses the challenges of delivering home broadband access.
LRTV Custom TV
Huawei on Mobile Broadband

2|23|17   |     |   (0) comments


Mohamed Madkour shares his vision on MBB for the next three years.
LRTV Custom TV
Analysys Mason Talks About the Future of Digital Operations

2|23|17   |     |   (0) comments


The future of digital operations has three key aspects: 1. Highly automated operations for both service and network; 2. Highly converged BSS/OSS for business and resources; 3. Highly merged management and control for real-time cloud native operations.
LRTV Interviews
Software Trends in the Telecom Sector

2|23|17   |   03:40   |   (0) comments


Heavy Reading senior analyst James Crawshaw talks with Telecoms.com Editorial Director Scott Bicheno about trends and developments in the telecoms software sector and what to expect at MWC 2017.
LRTV Custom TV
Huawei's Pre-MWC Analyst Briefing 2017 Highlights

2|22|17   |     |   (0) comments


Huawei shares its vision for this year's MWC.
LRTV Interviews
MWC17: 5G, Cloud RAN & More

2|21|17   |   04:35   |   (0) comments


Ovum Senior Analyst Julian Bright talks to Scott Bicheno from Telecoms.com about all things MWC, including Cloud RAN, Huawei's pitch to the industry and the road to 5G.
LRTV Interviews
MWC 2017's Key 2-Letter Terms

2|20|17   |   08:29   |   (1) comment


5G, AI, VR... these are just some of the two-letter terms that will dominate show-floor chat at MWC 2017 in Barcelona, according to these two blow-hards (a.k.a. Scott Bicheno of Telecoms.com and Light Reading's Ray Le Maistre). And then there's PB...
LRTV Interviews
Key Trends for Mobile Operators in Developing Markets

2|20|17   |   06:37   |   (0) comments


Ovum's Matthew Reed talks to Scott Bicheno from Telecoms.com about the challenges and opportunities facing mobile operators in the developing markets of Africa and the Middle East.
LRTV Documentaries
YouTube Takes on Facebook Live-Streaming

2|17|17   |     |   (0) comments


Popular 'YouTubers' will be the first to get the new service on their smartphones. You have been warned.
LRTV Custom TV
Open Source NFV/SDN Automation

2|17|17   |   05:54   |   (0) comments


AT&T ECOMP (Enhanced Control, Orchestration, Management and Policy) code is transitioning into the Linux Foundation for placement into open source. In this video, Carol Wilson provides an update on the maturation of open source ECOMP and meets with industry leaders from AT&T, Bell Canada, Orange, Linux Foundation and Amdocs to discuss what this means for the ...
LRTV Documentaries
Uber & NASA Collaborate on Flying Car Project

2|16|17   |     |   (0) comments


Is Uber for real? Well, it's hired NASA engineer Mark Moore to lead the project, and he wouldn't come cheap.
LRTV Documentaries
Zuckerberg Tries Out the Oculus Rift VR Glove

2|15|17   |     |   (0) comments


Facebook CEO shows off a new way to interact with the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset: an Oculus glove.
Upcoming Live Events
March 21-22, 2017, The Curtis Hotel, Denver, CO
March 22, 2017, The Curtis Hotel, Denver, CO
March 22, 2017, The Curtis Hotel, Denver, CO
May 15-17, 2017, Austin Convention Center, Austin, TX
May 15, 2017, Austin Convention Center - Austin, TX
June 6, 2017, The Joule Hotel, Dallas, TX
All Upcoming Live Events
Infographics
With the mobile ecosystem becoming increasingly vulnerable to security threats, AdaptiveMobile has laid out some of the key considerations for the wireless community.
Hot Topics
Uber's HR Nightmare: Company Investigates Sexual Harassment Claims
Sarah Thomas, Director, Women in Comms, 2/21/2017
Broadband Has a Problem on the Pole
Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, 2/21/2017
Verizon to Start Fixed 5G Customer Trials in April
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 2/22/2017
Sprint to Go Gigabit Crazy at MWC!
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 2/22/2017
MANO Marriage: ECOMP, Open-O Converge as ONAP
Carol Wilson, Editor-at-large, 2/23/2017
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
Light Reading founder and CEO Steve Saunders chats with Sportlogiq CEO Craig Buntin about sports data analysis.
Eyal Waldman, CEO of Mellanox Technologies, speaks to Steve Saunders, CEO of Light Reading, for an exclusive interview about the 100 GB cable challenge, cybersecurity and much more.
Animals with Phones
No One Likes This Click Here
Take a hint!
Live Digital Audio

Playing it safe can only get you so far. Sometimes the biggest bets have the biggest payouts, and that is true in your career as well. For this radio show, Caroline Chan, general manager of the 5G Infrastructure Division of the Network Platform Group at Intel, will share her own personal story of how she successfully took big bets to build a successful career, as well as offer advice on how you can do the same. We’ll cover everything from how to overcome fear and manage risk, how to be prepared for where technology is going in the future and how to structure your career in a way to ensure you keep progressing. Chan, a seasoned telecom veteran and effective risk taker herself, will also leave plenty of time to answer all your questions live on the air.