Ethertronics Developing Active Antennas For Cornucopia of Next-Generation Wireless Services

Earlier this month, Xconomy reported that San Diego’s Ethertronics raised an additional $4 million in a secondary round of venture funding. Yesterday, I sat down with Sahil Bansal, Ethertronics’ director of strategic marketing, who explained how the company has emerged as a specialist in embedded antennas for cell phones and how it’s planning to use the new funds to move into the next-generation of wireless devices through “active antennas” for tuning into a diverse spectrum of mobile TV, FM radio, Bluetooth, and other services.

Ethertronics co-founders Laurent Desclos and Sebastian Rowson started the company in 2000 to commercialize new antenna technology known as IMD, for Isolated Magnetic Dipole. As Bansal explained it, both IMD and conventional embedded antennas are mounted on a circuit board and excited by an electric current. But with its patented IMD technology, Ethertronics can confine the current in the antenna element more effectively, which keeps energy from being dissipated through the circuit board and to surrounding components. Isolating the antenna in this way makes it more efficient, which allows for smaller effective antenna size and improved overall performance when a caller asks, “Can you hear me now?”

The innovation enabled Ethertronics to get its first patent in 2003 and its first order in 2004 from South Korea’s LG Electronics, currently the world’s third-largest handset maker. In the next two years, Ethertronics got its first orders from Samsung and Motorola.

Bansal says the privately held company now holds or has applied for more than 50 patents and ranks as a leading provider of embedded antennas for the wireless industry. Ethertronics has more than 180 employees, including about 35 at its San Diego headquarters and R&D center. Most of Ethertronics’ other employees work in South Korea, Taiwan, and China, and 80 percent of its global workforce is in engineering.

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Bruce V. Bigelow was the editor of Xconomy San Diego from 2008 to 2018. Read more about his life and work here. Follow @bvbigelow

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