WiMAX will Drive the Expansion of Both Smart Antenna Technology and Baseband Processor Technology Markets

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WTRS projects that the overall attach rate of smart antenna technology in mobile WiMAX will reach more than 60% by 2008. Smart antennas have been around for decades, but today they are in the process of getting even smarter. WiMAX is one of the strongest drivers for smart antenna technology today.

Smart antenna technology is moving directly into maturing markets that are ready and waiting to imbibe add-on features to existing products. WiMAX is one of the strongest drivers for smart antenna technology today. As such smart antennas technology enables a second revenue wave in the channel that is already under a company’s command, with an established presence in a matured segment that is experiencing declining margins.

Smart antennas have been around for decades, but today they are in the process of getting even smarter. For the past ten-plus years, and with the development of multiple antennas for transmission and reception, known also as space-time communication, smart antenna technology has become a serious research and development arena. It is a branch of wireless communications that makes use of the ‘space dimension’ (i.e. antennas) along with the traditional time dimension in modulation and coding at the transmitter, and demodulation and decoding at the receiver in order to improve the performance of wireless links. Today companies in the US, Japan, and Europe are in high gear to take advantage of the benefits that smart antennas promise.

WTRS does not believe it useful to simply join in the "forecast game," but focuses instead on finding the reasons for growth in a technology and providing the research to allow companies to profitably enter new markets and succeed.

As the requirements for broadband access solutions begin to emerge in the market, companies are now forced to consider the possibility of integrating several wireless protocols into the same device or even the same chip, according to WTRS (http://www.wtrs.net). Baseband architecture in a smart antenna system is responsible for transforming the data streams into the format required for the transmitter. As such, characterizing the changing market for these baseband components in conjunction with the forecast market dynamics of the antenna technology itself offers a critical resource for component, antenna, and end product OEMs. While baseband processing continues to develop rapidly, the RF front-end components needed to make agile jumps among the various bands lags behind. Among the technologies which enable agile frequency selection, smart antennas are central to enabling the end-product to work in the real world. Software defined radio (SDR) development will likely be a significant driver of smart antenna technology given the strong upgrade and maintenance advantages that SDR offers.

"Smart Antenna technology will be one of the key underlying developments to enable software defined radio (SDR) integration across FPGAs, GPPs, and structured ASICs.," says Kirsten West, PhD, founder and Principal Analyst with the high-tech market research firm. "The use of software-defined radio techniques that utilize multi-hop transceivers, greatly reduces a physical packaging constrain which limits number of individual RF protocols that can be fit into a single package. Thus Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, UWB, and WiMAX can be integrated into a single device package. Of course this integration requires smart antenna technology in order to manage and tune the antenna(s) to the frequency in use at the moment.”

WTRS has also found that:

1. The mobile WiMAX market has experienced stronger than expected growth due to advances in Korea, as well as increased traction in Japan and the emergence of developments in countries in Africa and The Middle East. WTRS projects that the overall attach rate of smart antenna technology in mobile WiMAX will reach more than 60% by 2008. By 2010, WTRS forecasts that approximately 3% of all mobile subscribers, or 31 million subscribers worldwide, will be using mobile WiMAX-based wireless access services. Nearly 4 million of these wireless subscribers will reside in Africa.

2. Smart antenna technology has the capability to extend the range and increase efficiency of communications for nearly every wireless communications technology and protocol. VOIP is viewed as a strong driver of communications services and thus infrastructure in the U.S. market. Cable VOIP is on the rise with customer growth of 68% CAGR. Given an overall Cable VoIP Service Market estimated at nearly $8 Billion in 2005 servicing 12 million customers, VOIP provides a strong driver for adoption of not only wireless technologies, but the adaptive antenna methodologies which enable these products to function reasonably well.

3. MIMO will be prevalent in WLAN range extension applications. One of the primary driving forces for smart antenna adoption in WLAN hotspot applications is the promise of range extension and capacity gain, key benefits in convention, public infrastructure, and transportation infrastructure. The factors determining technology uptake are not the price of the product, but how many widgets are out there; in this case product density triggers smart antenna adoption.

4. Smart Antennas are critical to 2.5 and 3G communication in order to deliver future services with minimal quality of service. In communications markets smart antenna technology offers CDMA interference reduction and capacity enhancement to2.5 and 3G handset and communication towers. Smart antenna technology adoption in this segment roughly follows the growth of 3G markets; as handset usage and thus density increases, smart antenna implementation increases. Even implementation in handsets and not base stations yields a 40% increase in performance.

5. Smart Antenna Use in GPS Extends Operational Range. Smart Antenna technology is being developed for GPS systems in order to extend the product usage range. In this case, the GPS product margin triggers new antenna technology adoption due to the low overall density of GPS devices in the field coupled with not providing sufficient demand on the transmitters to warrant or necessitate smart antenna adoption.

6. Why Bluetooth is not a candidate for smart antennas. The question arises of why not Bluetooth. Many smart antenna companies attempted to target the Bluetooth-enabled product market four and five years ago, to no avail. The primary reason for their failure is that the initial Bluetooth product price was too low to support addition of smart antenna technology. Pricing demands from the consumer chain drove margins down too quickly to give smart antenna companies the time to integrate their technologies into Bluetooth products. Also capacity enhancement is not an issue for Bluetooth networks since the inherent architecture limits a piconet to 8 devices.

7. Directed beam antennas are important to delivering specific multimedia UWB or wireless USB products. Smart antenna integration enables the common UWB use cases which surround the transfer of high speed multimedia content. If this market becomes even a fraction of its potential, it will provide a tremendous opportunity for adaptive antenna technology markets.

8. While many large players dominating R&D in this technology, many small companies, some that are not even on the radar, in this country, in Canada, in Asia, are hard at work developing, productizing, and selling smart antenna architectures, chipsets, and access points. This is a market that will be dominated by the small, technology-licensing OEM and the large antenna OEMs for at least the next 5 years.

Recent WTRS research, Smart Antenna Controller Trends Report (#WT071307SAMR), examines latest developments in the emerging smart antenna and associated baseband controller markets and the role emerging wireless technologies will play in its overall development. This report evaluates potential smart antenna technology penetration and profitability in varying market segments. Five-year chipset shipment forecasts for smart antennas are presented by applicable wireless technology and product sector. Five-year revenue forecasts for smart antenna components are also included. The report includes analysis of adaptive array and directional beam antenna technology markets and associated alliance development, as well as an evaluation of current technology and corporate developments.

To purchase this research, or for more information, please contact George West at http://www.wtrs.net or 650 940-1196 The price is $3,500 U.S. Dollars.


Title: “Smart Antenna Controller Trends Report A Comprehensive Evaluation of Smart Antenna Technology Markets"

Product Number: WT071307SAMR

Publication Date: July 2006. Number of Pages: 168

Market Brief, Table of Contents, Figures & Tables all available upon request

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Market Research from WTRS

West Technology Research Solutions, LLC (WTRS) is an independent market research and consulting company with 8 years in wireless research specializing in Insteon, ZigBee, UWB, Bluetooth, WiMAX, IEEE 802.15.4, Wi-Fi, and other emerging wireless technologies and protocols. WTRS helps companies track the market potential & viability of wireless emerging technologies. WTRS reports are not funded by, or in any other way influenced by, companies which we study. WTRS market research and consulting services provide customers with the information they need to assess market opportunities, evaluate investments, monitor competition, form relationships, and make crucial business decisions in following cutting-edge technologies. WTRS customers range from start-ups, some still in development, to the largest and most prominent players in technology. All have an interest in market intelligence that aides them in making crucial business decisions.

Website: http://www.wtrs.net

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