Ethertronics Developing Active Antennas For Cornucopia of Next-Generation Wireless Services

4/30/09Follow @bvbigelow

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than 150 million antennas since it was founded, with annual revenue zooming from slightly over $1 million in 2003 to more than $23.2 million in 2007—a 2,386 percent increase.

Now Bansal says the company is moving to adapt to a new trend in the wireless market as device makers add capabilities to receive mobile TV, Bluetooth, WiFi, WiMax, Wide Area Network, FM, and satellite-based GPS signals. Essentially, each feature operates at a different radio frequency and usually requires a different antenna. As multi-modes and multi-bands become more of the norm, Bansal said the challenge is developing multiple antennas, or perhaps multi-capability antennas, for handset designs with ever-smaller form factors.

In some cases, there will be multiple antennas to support different standards, such as Bluetooth and WiFi, Bansal said. Ethertronics also has combo antennas (multiple antennas co-located in the same ceramic package)that support Bluetooth and GPS in one small ceramic package, as well as products that support multiple multiple frequency bands through one high-performance antenna.

As a result, Ethertronics has been developing new techniques and technologies to create what it calls “active antenna systems” capable of providing greater performance for 4G handsets, and particularly the LTE, or Long Term Evolution standard. Bansal said the technical requirements for supporting mobile television and next-generation 4G cellular standards will be difficult to achieve with passive embedded antennas.

Beyond mobile handsets, Bansal said, is the industry’s other inescapable trend toward more capable wireless notebook computers, netbooks and other types of mobile devices. “The sweet spot with the highest value for us is in very tightly constrained designs that require multiple channels.”

The $4 million Series D venture round that was disclosed in early April is intended to help the company shift to this new market for active antennas. The investors were Ridgewood Capital of Ridgewood, N.J., Sevin Rosen Funds’ in Palo Alto, CA, and Bank of America, which got its stake through its acquisition of Excelsior Venture Partners of Stamford, CT. Ethertronics’ Chief Financial Officer, Rick Johnson, told me the company has not disclosed how much total venture funding it has received.
“It’s been a really tough investment climate over the past six months,” Bansal said, “so we’re really delighted that we were able to raise this capital.”

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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