Antennas perform the most elementary function of wireless communication –transmission and reception. Not surprisingly, the earliest innovations in the telecommunications domain have been related mostly to antennas. Gradually, the advances in signal processing relegated antenna innovation to the background. In the modern era, the antenna is the device in which the software sophistication of signal processing meets the hardware reality of the atmospheric ambience and the primal laws of physics.
An antenna is essentially a transducer; it converts one form of energy into another. Wireless communication is essentially transmission of electromagnetic (EM) waves, while the signal-processing functions deal with electrical energy. Antennas thus convert electrical energy into EM energy during transmission and the reverse during reception. On a more fundamental level, the antenna is nothing but an efficient conductor of electrical energy. Theoretically, every conductor, when fed with alternating current (AC) of adequate frequency will radiate EM energy. It is possible to calibrate the physical properties of the antennas in such a way as to obtain transmission and reception of waves at the desired frequency and in the desired directions.
The extreme diversity in underlying applications, operating frequencies, components, and shapes notwithstanding, the basic premise of antennas remains remarkably uncomplicated.
While, technically, antennas are like any other component that constitutes wireless communication systems, their profile differs from other components significantly when it comes to the pricing, volumes, and stakeholders involved.
A wireless communication system has the following major components:
- Antenna to send and receive wireless signals
- RF front-end section to modulate and demodulate the signal
- Baseband to generate and process the core digital signal
- Codec (optional) to perform analog-to-digital interconversion of signals received from the user and transmitted back to the user.
The stakeholder ecosystems of RF front-end, basebands and codecs are akin to one another, with the companies of a similar profile engaged in intellectual property (IP) generation, fabrication, and actual component manufacturing. Antennas, by contrast, tend to have sector-specific chains for all these activities. A sector-dependent breakdown of the market is thus imperative.
The following sectors are identified:
- TV/radio infrastructure and user equipment
- Satellite communication infrastructure
- Mobile phones
- Wireless telecommunications infrastructure
- Computing devices and systems
- Medical devices and systems
- Defense and surveillance devices and systems
- Residential/industrial/commercial premises and user devices.
The wide diversity in antenna technologies makes a substantial chunk of the antenna market vulnerable to the vagaries of the larger semiconductor market as well. Chip antennas and fractals, for example, have similar dynamics to those of semiconductor ICs. Cyclicality in the antenna market domain is thus a composite of sector-specific and semiconductor-industry-specific cyclicality patterns.
The above is an extract from the BCC Research report, Antennas for Systems and Devices: Technologies and Global Markets (IFT073B). To download the complimentary first chapter, please click on the above link.