Making 3G and 4G a reality with low-cost amplifiers for wireless base stations

Chiping Chen

Wireless operators are continuously striving to reduce the cost of delivering voice and data to their customers. The high cost of building and operating wireless base stations is a major challenge to this goal. Next-generation amplifiers based on ribbon-beam vacuum electron devices (aka tubes) that can dramatically improve throughput of microwave networks could solve this problem for the wireless industry.

With an Ignition Grant from the Deshpande Center, this project completed conceptual and engineering designs of a proof-of-concept ribbon-beam amplifier (RBA). Such amplifiers will be inherently highly efficient, highly linear, frequency-scalable, and broadband. Business analyses and market research show that RBAs can reduce the cost of a third-generation (3G) wireless base station by 65 percent, saving up to $500 billion for wireless operators worldwide over 20 years. They also show that the RBA is future-proof for emerging 4G, WiMAX, and ultra-wideband (UWB) wireless communication.

The next phase of this project will pursue the fabrication and testing of a proof-of-concept RBA. As a broad-platform technology, the ribbon-beam vacuum electron device has wide applications, including satellite communications, radar, missile defense, and particle acceleration.