Just how valuable are the Powerwave patents?
Company officials have been marketing its valuable technology patent portfolio that, according to regulatory filings, included more than 240 U.S. patents and 500 foreign patents as of February 2012.
We have done research on some of the most recent patents.
Some interesting patents include:
- System and method for performance enhancement in heterogeneous wireless access networks. Patent 8396506 Issued on March 12, 2013. This patent seeks to create an Integrated Power Boost to user devices at the coverage edge of a cell tower. User devices will sample downlink signal strength at the cell edge and the average of the aggregate will be used to determine if the base station should assign more power to the traffic channel. This sounds great until the new cell edge is pushed further out and the additional footprint starts to cause uplink interference to neighboring cell towers. In addition, dynamic power control algorithms are already employed in base station algorithms (Fractional Power Control) to limit the power levels on the uplink, which is where the major challenge lies.
- low power multi-beam active array for cellular communications. This has the ability to enhance the directivity of the antenna beam resulting in higher signal levels incident to mobile devices i.e. greater throughput
- wireless repeater with smart uplink. This will reduce the problems caused by unbalanced uplink-downlink and result in better performing networks
Part of the problem is that antenna systems are rarely replaced, the exception being that the carrier wants to add a technology at a different spectrum band. LTE is being built on the 700MHz spectrum band in the US. It means that antennas either have to be added or replaced to support 700MHz so the current time is opportune as far as sales go. So buying a portfolio of patents that deals with antenna technology may quickly lose value if the technology is not implemented and offered in this current build cycle.
The amplifier patents are very interesting however. They do have the ability to impact the growing Distributed Antenna System (DAS) in-building coverage enhancement industry. According to ABI Research, the DAS market is expected to exceed $3.6 billion by the end of 2013.
Of course these are just a sample of what is in the patent portfolio. A buyer would be wise to employ engineers who have extensive experience in the industry to understand the implications of the patents to the actual value they present to a market that is in consolidation mode. It remains to be seen what is going to happen to this once giant of the telecommunication industry.