What is a Virtual Antenna?

Antennas 
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What is a virtual antenna and what are its advantages over custom built antennas?
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Carles Puente i Baliarda - Fractus Antennas

Mar 21, 2017

Virtual Antenna is the commercial name for the "Antenna-less" technology based on a new generation of tiny components named antenna boosters. Antenna boosters are miniature, surface-mount (SMT), off-the-shelf, components that replace conventional customized PIFA/Printed antennas for mobile/wireless connectivity applications. Being much smaller than the operating wavelength (typically below 1/30 or even 1/50 of the wavelength and beyond), the antenna boosters provide full functional multiband wireless connectivity to smartphones and IoT devices and seamlessly fit about any device form factor and design. This enables a single antenna booster component being reused across multiple mobile and wireless designs, reducing time to market, product development investments and finally, cost. Moreover, because the antenna boosters take the form of a chip antenna, they can be assembled in production on the main printed circuit board (PCB) of the mobile/wireless device using conventional pick-and-place machinery, resulting in a lower production cost and improved quality and reliability.

The architecture of a Virtual Antenna system typically includes one or more antenna boosters, a matching network and a ground plane layer embedded into the main PCB of the mobile/wireless device. While the antenna booster is of-the-shelf and can be used across a variety of mobile products, the matching network does need customization for every wireless or mobile device. By changing the matching network the response of the antenna-less system can be adapted to cover the multiple frequency bands required in a modern smartphone. For instance, a high-end smartphone featuring every band from LTE700 up to LTE 3700 might need a couple of boosters and 5-8 high-Q components for the matching network to deliver 'always-on' full bandwidth enabling inter-band carrier aggregation . A simpler IoT device would benefit of a simpler matching network with typically 3-5 components. Still the same antenna booster component might be used for both, the high-end smartphone and the simple IoT device.

Antenna booster products are already available commercially from Fractus Antennas. Fractus Antennas offers a variety of antenna booster products with different form factors to fit the needs of about any wireless or mobile device. The range of antenna booster products by Fractus Antennas is named mXTEND. Antenna booster products, samples and evaluation boards are also distributed worldwide by Richardson RFPD. A number of application notes describing the use of antenna boosters into a variety of wireless devices are available here.

The name Virtual Antenna has its origin on the working principle of this novel antenna technology. The tiny boosters maximize the radiation produced by the ground plane layer within the wireless and mobile device, making the deployment of a bulky, customized antenna unnecessary and therefore enabling the reduction of the antenna component to an unprecedented small size. The potential impact of these technology has been highlighted in multiple IEEE publications including this recent paper reviewing recent announced at the Mobile World Congress. It has been named among the "Ten Fascinating Things" by the MIT Technology Review newsletter.


The CUBE mXTEND antenna component by Fractus Antennas provides full-multiband, 'always-on' mobile connectivity to smartphones and IoT devices

 

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