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LTE RF Issues Create Opportunities for Antenna & Device Makers

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Vendors are realizing that radio frequency (RF) design is vastly important, and current design issues offers emerging antenna vendors opportunities to be more competitive in quality and price, according to Heavy Reading.

"This report was finalized just as some iPhone 4 owners were receiving $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," notes Tim Kridel, research analyst with Heavy Reading 4G/LTE Insider and author of the report. "It's not a stretch to call Antennagate a wake-up moment for Apple and other device vendors, their suppliers and mobile operators in terms of showing how RF design directly affects everything from brand reputation to the bottom line."

Current challenges add up to major, emerging, long-term opportunities for antenna vendors and other RF companies to differentiate their products and compete on more than just price, Kridel says.

"Consumers and enterprises are upgrading to LTE because device vendors and operators have convinced them that it's blindingly fast compared to 3G," he continues. "So when LTE fails to live up to that expectation, customers inundate operator call centers and social networks with questions and complaints. Antennas and other RF components are critical for meeting that expectation and avoiding the support costs, churn and brand hits that are the unwelcome alternatives."

Key findings include:

  • Band fragmentation and legacy fallback are two major challenges for LTE RF designers
  • Qualcomm's recent expansion into the RF front end business shows how LTE's challenges also are business opportunities
  • Qualcomm's new RF360 solution won't single-handedly enable LTE global roaming or solve fragmentation
  • LTE's unique requirements makes it easier for antenna vendors to escape the commoditization trap
  • Digital cameras and other consumer electronics devices are adding LTE, but their OEMs often lack RF design experience
  • Teamwork between RF designers and industrial designers could mitigate problems such as head and hand detuning

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