Smart antennas give a cell phone network room for additional calls by more efficiently using spectrum, the finite amount of airwaves used to transmit wireless calls or Web sessions. The antennas are attached to the base stations that make up a cell phone network.
Lucent's smart antenna is unique because it directs the call's signal to the intended cell phone, said Lucent spokesman Ichiro Kawasaki. Other such antennas only narrow down the geographic area a call is sent, he said.
"We think we're the first with this" method, Kawasaki said.
Lucent says the technology will double a carrier's network capacity. The company expects the new antenna to be available on a trial basis sometime next spring, with a broader commercial release by August 2003.
Verizon Wireless is one likely candidate for the upgrade. The wireless service provider has alreadybase stations that allow for the use of smart antennas, according to a Verizon representative.
Other network equipment makers expected to develop smart antennas, including Nortel Networks, Nokia and Siemens, had no immediate comment about the Lucent smart antenna.
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Shiv Bakhshi, a wireless analyst with IDC, said Lucent is making a "smart move" by packaging the antenna into a circuit board that fits directly onto a base station. Most other smart antennas are packaged in a separate piece of equipment that must be added to the network, a more cumbersome approach that could turn off carriers.
"Tying it into a base station is a very smart move because it makes a base station so much more attractive to the operators," he said.