Tunable antennas improve smartphone battery life and reduce dropped calls

Several popular smartphones shipped in 2011 with compact, integrated antenna tuners, the first of a wave of such tuners from Peregrine Semi, RFMD and others. We have been looking into the outlook for active antennas & tunable components in cellular phones by comparing the different suppliers and technical approaches and we are now convinced of an upbeat forecast of the market through 2017.

Mobile devices that support 4G, 3G and 2G in multiple bands have complex RF front-ends, with compromises in antenna performance that can degrade calls, as Apple learned last year.  Tunable components can reduce dropped calls and improve battery life, while simplifying the cellphone.

Significant new strategic avenues open for radio component vendors

Antennas with tunable impedance matching will bring success to some new entrants such as WiSpry and inevitably shake up the existing order among cellphone RF front-end component vendors.

The new ‘antenna tuner’ product category will emerge as an important piece of the cell phone RF front-end, and we expect antenna specialists including Ethertronics and Skycross, in combination with front-end component suppliers including Skyworks, RFMD, Avago Tech, TriQuint and Murata, to compete aggressively in this segment using GaAs, CMOS, RF MEMS and voltage-dependent dielectric variable capacitor technologies.

Stephen Entwistle

Client reading: The Strategy Analytics report, “Outlook for Active Antennas & Tunable Components in Cellular Phones”  reviews the prospects for tunable RF components, comparing the different approaches and suppliers, and provides an upbeat forecast of the market through 2017.