Resnick Institute

2015 Resonate Award Winners

Joel L. Dawson

Resonate Award recipient for innovations solving key power challenges in the cellular communications industry.

The Challenge

Wireless (radio) communications require a significant amount of energy. Globally, mobile networks consume approximately 120 TWh (terawatt-hours) of electricity per year. Up to 80 percent of that power consumed by base station’s (cell phone towers) power amplifiers, the large, heavy part of the radio that launches electrical signals out through the antenna. Today’s technology for mobile networks is outdated and uses more power than what’s needed to support the radio signal in base stations and mobile devices.

The challenge is not limited to large cellular base stations. In smartphones, power amplifiers for LTE and WiFi dominate the energy consumption during any sort of wireless communications. Inefficient power amplifiers are a primary reason that cell phones become warm to the touch and drain their battery life so quickly under heavy usage.

The Response

Eta Devices has developed a new transmitter technology called ETAdvanced. This technology has the proven capability to dramatically reduce power consumption in transmitters everywhere in the wireless ecosystem, from large macro base stations, to cellular handsets, to WLAN access points and mobile devices. The new architecture can be thought of as an ultrafast electronic gearbox—minimizing the wasted energy while still adhering to stringent performance standards. Eta Devices has leveraged the fundamental, physical advantage of the new technology into a complete set of microchips being released this year. The portfolio includes products for macro base stations, cellular handsets, and WiFi for mobile devices and access points.

The Future

When implemented around the world, Dawson’s technology will slash green house gas emissions by about 36 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalents annually. That’s as much CO2 as is generated by 4.5 million American homes per year. Eta Devices’ technology opens up a pathway for cellular companies to simultaneously save money and become more sustainable. The lower energy consumption also enables cellular base stations powered exclusively by renewable sources bringing additional benefits. It also introduces savings on secondary costs such as air-conditioning and back-up power systems. Eta Devices hopes to make a global impact in cellular networks particularly in the developing world, where diesel-powered generators are used to power base stations. They’re also targeting the massive smartphone market, which will bring substantial carbon footprint reductions.