Motia - Killer Antenna Tech for Wi-Fi/WiMAX
I spent half an hour with Motia's Chief Scientist, Jack Winters. Motia has a few dozen patents in the smart antenna field, and announced today an investment round that includes Intel. While Intel hasn't said they will use Motia's technology, an investment from their Communications Fund is always a good sign. And Scott Richardson, general manager of Intel's Broadband Wireless Division, is quoted as saying, "Smart antenna technology, like Motia's, could play an important role in lowering service providers' costs for installing WiMAX wireless broadband services."
So what is Motia doing that has attracted Intel and Motorola as early partners? The core innovation is in adaptive algorithms that replace a single antenna with 4 antennas, using these 4 receptors to more intelligently analyze the phas and amplitude of a received signal. The gain is 10-13 db which equates to a range increase of 2-3 times, or a greater ability to penetrate obstacles like walls. All this for a technology that will cost $10 to $20 to add to a typical Wi-Fi base station.
Unlike power boosters, which must be installed both in a base station and a device receiver to obtain full benefit, just installing a smart antenna in the base station will yield the range benefit. Both the transmitted signal and received signal are optimized through this technology.
An important point for VoIP over wireless applications -- use of a smart antenna will significantly improve the quality of service within the range of the base station -- the algorithm and use of four antennas "smooths" the signal within the service area.
While there are other smart antenna systems, Motia is virtually alone in applying an analog processing algorithm, as opposed to digital signal procesisng approaches. This means that there is significantly less lag time introduced in the process of analyzing the signal. Jack Winters states he knows "...of noone else with a working chip." They have delivered engineering samples to partners and are prepared to manufacture as soon as there is an order.
Motia expects two types of products -- base stations with a smart antenna built directly into the device, marketed as long range Wi-Fi, and something that Motia is calling SEAM devices (smart external antenna modules). With a SEAM device, a consumer could replace the existing antenna and retrofit with a smart antenna, improving the devices range and quality of service. Motia hopes that there will be products available for consumers in time for the 2004 holiday season.
But WiMAX may be the bigger win, a smart antenna can help WiMAX in the higher bandwidth ranges penetrate buildings and ease configuration hassles. Motia expects that significant partnerships will take this technology into first generation WiMAX equipment in 2005.