Active antennas could mean more powerful Wi-Fi networks

Smart antenna maker Ethertronics is taking active antenna technology it originally developed for mobile phones and applying it to Wi-Fi routers and gadgets. Its hope is to create consumer wireless networks that can make that leap to the furthest reaches of your home where Wi-Fi signals typically never penetrate.

Ethertronics unveiled a new chip on Tuesday that will bring its active steering algorithms to Wi-Fi antennas, increasing their range and boosting their throughput in less than optimal conditions. Active steering essentially creates multiple radiation patterns around the same antenna and then selects the ideal pattern to hit its targeted device with best signal.

Ethertronics developed the technology to overcome the frenetic movements and rapidly mutating radio conditions of a topsy turvy mobile world, but with the newest version of its EtherChip, active steering helps signals navigate the multiple walls and ceilings that often separate a router from a Wi-Fi device, Ethertronics Chief Scientist Jeff Shamblin told me.

Ethertronics Radiation Patterns

Furthermore as newer 802.11ac Wave 2 routers can now use their multiple antennas to simultaneously connect to different devices, active steering select a different radiation pattern for each antenna. That means every device connecting to the router would get the optimal signal even if they’re spread throughout different places in the house.

Ethertronics has designed the antenna technology that has gone into more than a billion mobile devices (if you own a Samsung Galaxy device chances are you’re talking and surfing through an Ethertronics rig), but its active steering technology hasn’t yet made it into a mobile device, though it is engaged in several trials with carriers. Shamblin, however, thinks that that the technology stands a good shot in the Wi-Fi market as we increasingly hook more devices into home wireless networks from TVs and stereos, to wearables and smart home appliances. This issue of whole–home coverage is a problem other companies like Eero are also trying to solve.

In Ethertronics tests it has demonstrated a 20 percent to 45 percent increase in throughput between access points and devices living on the fringes of a network, Shamblin said. For an ISP or a cable provider that offers Wi-Fi as a service that could be considerable selling point as it means a single self-installed home router is more likely to cover every room in a home.

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