Data speeds and consumption are constantly growing, but the strain this puts on cellphone batteries and base stations has both frustrated users and increased overall power consumption. As MIT Technology Review reports, though, a new technology could turn that around. ETA Devices, founded by MIT professors Joel Dawson and David Perreault, is working on a system to cut base station power consumption in half and eventually do the same with smartphones.
"With high data rate communication, you wind up needing far more standby power than signal power."
The system works by optimizing the power amplifier, which converts electricity to radio signals in both cellphones and base stations. The amplifier works in both a high-power mode for sending data and a lower-power standby mode, but because making sudden jumps between power levels can distort the signal, the standby mode is kept at a level that consumes far more power than it needs. "It means you are pulling a lot of energy just to keep the thing on," Dawson says. "With high data rate communication, you wind up needing far more standby power than signal power." To make it more efficient, ETA Devices installs a system that can choose between different voltages as many as 20 million times a second, selecting the most appropriate one.
ETA Devices is still in the research stage, but it hopes to announce a product for base stations at the 2013 Mobile World Congress in February. It's also developing a version that could fit in smartphones, potentially doubling battery life when using a data connection. The ultimate goal is a version that could work with multiple standards, including CDMA, GSM, and LTE. For now, while we wouldn't expect more efficient smartphones any time soon, we're looking forward to seeing how the setup performs in its first commercial outing next year.