Thursday, December 10, 2009

Radio Heads Growing

I have read and seen a lot at trade show the changing demands of cost reduction and greater efficiency in cellular base station design are leading to a growing market for remote radio heads. According to a new study from ABI Research, this market is on track to exceed a value of $1 billion in 2014.

A basestation traditionally was made up of a rack of equipment with a long coaxial cable up to the antenna. This configuration is more expensive and has higher losses due the long cable up to he antenna. Remote radio heads are compact so they can be mounted right on the back of the antenna greatly reducing the losses. They are also less expensive and software controlled so they can be configured and updated remotely. Multiple heads can be attached for MIMO operation and controlled by a single basestation to further reduce costs while enabling higher capacity. They are becoming more important as WiMAX and LTE technologies are implemented that will utilize MIMO operation.

There is also the shift to IP based radios which makes the software portion of the radio even more important. The capacity of these radio systems is increasing quickly, and I see nice solutions from suppliers such as Dragonwave, Ceragon, Harris Stratex, Exalt and more at every trade show. This trend enables more complicated but higher throughput technologies such as adaptive modulation. For more on this subject read our Expert Advice this month by Greg Friesen from DragonWave.

All these changes in the radio implementations will affect the type of demand for components and software as this shift continues. Suppliers will need to improve device efficiency, reduce component size and improve reliability as servicing these heads is more difficult than traditional basestations. Typically discrete devices are used so future integration of multiple functions will reduces costs and improve reliability.

Have you experienced this change in demand at the component level? Has it changed the demands on antenna performance??

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