Smart antennas set to take off

LONDON ” The smart antenna systems market is expected to reach global sales of $1.6 billion by 2008 according to a just published study by research group Visant Strategies (New York).

The market was worth about $600 million last year, and , mainly as a result of growth in China, is expected to reach $900 million this year, after which it will taper off slightly.

The study, titled 'Smart Antennas: Wading into the Mainstream', suggests the technology is already deployed in one out of every ten base stations in the world.

Smart antenna technology, which increases the performance and economics of wireless networks typically through the combination of multiple antennas and advanced signal processing, has become a product many base station manufacturers are now looking to incorporate into their mix, following years of the product being pushed by a number of technology innovators and vendors.

Established infrastructure vendors are starting to integrate smart antennas into their designs as wireless operators exhaust conventional methods of increasing their network capacity, said Andy Fuertes, senior analyst at Visant and author of the study.

Fuertes told the reason smart antennas have taken longer to get established than some anticipated is because integrated systems took longer to develop. The winners so far have been companies such as Arraycom and Kyocera, but “all the main infrastructure players are now beginning to incorporate smart antenna technology into their line-up, such as Lucent Technologies with its BLAST antenna technology developed at Bell Labs.”

“Operators are under pressure to improve profitability, and questions linger about moving to 2.5G or 3G in a lot of areas throughout the world, leaving many operators evaluating smart antenna technology”, said Fuertes.

Market challenges include the current deployments of smart antenna technology mainly enhancing the standard PHS, while the GSM and CDMA2000 markets, the largest in the world, remain untapped, the study finds.

It also suggests growth will be fuelled by the improved economics smart antennas will provide to next-generation networks in Europe and broadband wireless access (BWA) networks world-wide.

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