5 December 2011
The University of Bristol is funding 14 research projects supporting knowledge exchange and impact relevant activities in the field of engineering and the physical sciences through funds from EPSRC. Under this scheme Mark Beach and Geoff Hilton in the Communication Systems & Networks Group were awarded funds to further their research in the field of 'Electrically Small Tuneable Antennas', aided by RF skills of Francesco Fornetti in the Group's Laboratory. Their proposal attracted support from Peregrine Semi (USA), who are providing state-of-the-art components for this project, as well as support in-kind from Ace-Axis, BAe Systems Ltd, Cognovo, ICT-KTN, Sony-Ericsson and Vodafone.
The joint event hosted by Cambridge Wireless and the ICT-KTN, ‘Making MIMO Deliver’ on the 24th November 2011 provided an opportunity to announce the goals and objectives of this project to some 90 delegates, largely drawn from the industrial wireless sector.
Physical size constraints of modern wireless devices and the increasing need to support multiple frequency bands associated with our desire for international roaming (as well as new spectrum slowly becoming available - e.g. 800MHz and 2.6GHz bands in the UK), the RF front-end has become inefficient and the weak-link within the communication chain. This trend has been on-going for some time, with a drift of 1dB reduction in handset sensitivity per year, greatly impacting the number of cell sites needed to provide coverage. For example, a 3dB or 50% reduction in handset sensitivity reduces the coverage area by 67%, resulting in the need for 48% more basestations, thus increasing both infrastructure costs and energy consumption of wireless networks. This problem is further compounded by the de-tuning of the antenna by the user’s hand or body, the so-called ‘Grip of Death’ as evidenced through measurements and analysis by Bristol.