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Antennas and Advanced Antenna Systems (AAS) breakthroughs to accelerate large scale deployments of 5G networks

End-user performance requirements continue to increase, putting high demands on the radio access network (RAN) to deliver increased coverage, capacity and end-user throughput. The antenna is an invaluable segment of any wireless network. Early 2G and 3G systems
operated with two receive antennas spaced at least a lambda spacing to optimize the uplink
receive diversity performance.


ITU-R (Rec. ITU‑R M.2101) uses the term AAS to mean Advanced Antenna System(s), while 3GPP uses the term AAS to mean Active Antenna System (s). Advanced antenna systems (AAS) is the general term used to describe antenna systems utilizing techniques aiming at improving performance and spectral efficiency of radiocommunication transceivers taking advantage of antenna array theory and practice.


These techniques include adaptive beamforming, multiple input multiple output (MIMO), and space division multiple access (SDMA) among other ones. These multi-antenna techniques are generally applicable to any frequency band or radio application and can be implemented using passive or active antennas.


In the recent past, telecommunications installers have mainly used sectorized (3-sector) antennas that offer frequency performance adequate to provide specified service for a specific carrier’s frequency bands. With the advent of 4G, this also included passive MIMO technologies and CA, which allowed for devices to connect over multiple spatial multiplexed paths and over several frequency bands.


4G LTE introduced the concept of Multiple Input, Multiple Output (MIMO) and beamforming
transmission to boost spectral efficiency and throughput. The main idea is to use multiple antennas at a transmitter and receiver to improve the performance of wireless communication systems. Massive MIMO ( or very large ), is an extension of MIMO and uses more than 100 antennas. Whereas MIMO antennas for under 6 GHz wireless may support eight elements, at mmWave frequencies the number of massive MIMO elements might be 128, 256, or higher. Massive MIMO ( Multiple Input Multiple Output ) is the new wireless access technology in 5G, in both sub-6 GHz and mmWave bands.


MMWs are radio signals having frequencies between 30 GHz and 300 GHz. While these higher-frequency bands have a lot of capacity, their shorter wavelengths mean their range is lower, and they can be easily blocked by buildings, cars, airplanes, and trees. To get around that problem, 5G requires what are called “small-cell antennas,” which must be deployed far more densely than 4G antennas, at roughly every 500 feet, or about one antenna per city block. Small-cell antennas are about 4 feet tall, with some as large as a refrigerator. The cell phone operators plan to affix them to streetlights and utility poles, or place them on the ground, sometimes disguised as mailboxes.


Active & Passive Antennas

All the traditional antenna systems are called the passive antenna, where antenna and radio modules are separate units interconnected by a short of long coaxial cable. The active antenna systems typically have much higher number of antenna ports (32 or 64) and are being called massive MIMO. In such systems, single user and multi-user MIMO are being used to exploit further enhanced spectral efficiency.


MIMO adoption will also be driven by “active antennas,” which include active components, not just metal rods, capacitors, and conductors. Active antennas are expected to “to grow from nearly 6% in 2017 to over 10% by 2021,” driven by MIMO and Massive MIMO configurations, according to the report.


Active antennas differ from passive antennas in that active control of the phase and amplitude to the antenna elements or subarrays allows for beamforming. Beamforming is control of RF energy that drives an antenna array in such a way that the antenna pattern of the array is controlled and shaped as desired.


Antenna Arrays

Multiple antennas can be arranged in space in specific configurations to form a highly directive pattern. These arrangements are referred to as “arrays.”  In an array antenna, the fields from the individual elements add constructively in some directions and destructively (cancel) in others thus creating an overall array radiation pattern different from that of the individual elements.


The major advantage of antenna arrays over a single antenna element is their electronic scanning capability; that is, the major lobe can be steered toward any direction by changing the phase of the excitation current at each array element (phased array antennas). Furthermore, by also controlling the magnitude of the excitation current, a large variety of radiation patterns and sidelobe level characteristics can be produced.


Adaptive antennas (also called “smart antennas” in mobile communication applications) go a step further than phased arrays and can direct their main lobe (with increased gain) in a desired direction (e.g., a mobile user in a cellular communication system) and nulls in the directions of interference or jammers.


Multiple transmit and multiple receive (MIMO) antennas

Multiple transmit and multiple receive (MIMO) antennas has emerged as one of the most significant technical breakthroughs in next generation wireless  communications. MIMO is the use of multiple antennas at both the transmitter and receiver to improve communication  performance. Multiple Input Multiple Output (MIMO) wireless multiplies data rates by using multiple antennas both at the transmitter and the receiver to enable ‘Spatial Multiplexing’ that creates parallel data streams equal of the number of antennas. MIMO therefore effectively multiplies the radio spectrum, a scarce and a very expensive resource.


The purpose of MIMO is to increase throughput. MIMO builds on the basic principle that when the received signal quality is high, it is better to receive multiple streams of data with reduced power per stream, than one stream with full power. The potential is large when the received signal quality is high and the streams do not interfere with each other. The potential diminishes when the mutual interference between streams increases.


The antenna module used in massive MIMO systems are phased array antennas that are also a very attractive choice for mmWave. The small wavelength at mmWave frequencies implies that the antenna elements will be closely spaced, which results in using large number of elements
within a reasonable size. At mmWave, the number of antenna elements at the base station can vary from 64 to more than 1000. Coverage-enhancing solutions are essential in mmWave. A high
number of antenna elements would provide wider coverage from a single radio and antenna through beamforming/steering


Massive MIMO

More support is gaining for mMIMO to enabling high numbers of concurrent users and machine-type communications within a cell, which yields yet a different requirement for antenna systems and base station infrastructure. Currently, 4G MIMO antennas are 2×2 MIMO cross polarized antennas connected to a remote radio head/radio unit (RRU) via front-haul fiber-optic cable to a digital unit/baseband (DU). This is an advancement over previous cell tower antenna systems, which used a base transceiver station/base station (BTS) that transmitted RF through coaxial assemblies to a single antenna unit. In the case of 4×4 and 8×8 MIMO, typically, multiple RRUs are connected to multiple cross polarized MIMO antennas, making an antenna system that scales linearly with the increase of MIMO complexity.


Currently, there is a shift in antenna purchases toward multi-band and MIMO antennas, namely 64×64 MIMO antennas, which are also referred to as massive MIMO (mMIMO) antennas. OEMs have developed, 64×64 MIMO antennas with integrated transceivers, MIMO, and beamforming hardware in the same assembly as the antenna. Massive (or Very Large) MIMO techniques use more than 100 antennas.  A massive MIMO technique can increase 10 times or more channel capacity and improve 100 times or more energy efficiency. MIMO technique is well matched at a high frequency technique such as millimeter wave (mmWAVE) techniques.


The computational and switching capacity available enables “massive multiple-input-multiple-output (massive MIMO)” antennas to create highly directional beams that focus transmitted energy in ways that can overcome path losses and NLOS conditions.  The resulting antenna arrays can achieve higher gains of up to 29 dBi (with a total of 256 cross-polarized elements) to help overcome increased propagation and radio hardware impairment losses. Their adaptive capabilities enhance performance as well.



Although often very effective, transmitting energy in only one direction does not always provide an optimum solution. In multi-path scenarios, where the radio channel comprises multiple propagation paths from the transmitter to receiver through diffraction around corners and reflections against buildings or other objects, it is beneficial to send the same data stream in several different paths (direction and/or polarization) with phases and amplitudes controlled in a way that they add constructively at the receiver. This is referred to as generalized beamforming.  As part of generalized beamforming, it is also possible to reduce interference to other UEs, which is known as null forming. This is achieved by controlling the transmitted signals in a way that they cancel each other out at the interfered UEs.


When transmitting, beamforming is the ability to direct radio energy through the radio channel toward a specific receiver. By adjusting the phase and amplitude of the transmitted signals, constructive addition of the corresponding signals at the UE receiver can be achieved, which increases the received signal strength and thus the end-user throughput. Similarly, when receiving, beamforming is the ability to collect the signal energy from a specific transmitter.


The small wavelength of mmWave frequencies allows us to pack many antennas in a small area.
Transmitting a signal through many antennas with specific phase offsets provides beamforming gain by coherently combining the electromagnetic signal radiated from each transmitter antenna. Similarly, the coherent combination of in-phase received signals from multiple antennas produces a signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) gain when the receive antennas have uncorrelated noise. The realized beamforming gain at both transmitter and receiver makes the communications channel directional, which reduces inter-and intra-cell interference.


Further advancements of beamforming can include both elevation, or vertical beamforming, and azimuthal, or horizontal beamforming. Both azimuthal and elevation control of beams combined with MIMO capability is referred to as full dimension MIMO (FD-MIMO), which would allow for UE and fixed-wireless devices used as customer premise equipment (CPE) to receive optimal signal strength and quality be limiting interference and more efficiently directing signal energy.


The beams formed by an AAS are constantly adapted to the surroundings to give high performance in both UL and DL. The key reasons for this technology shift are the superior performance of AAS in both uplink (UL) and downlink (DL) and the feasibility of building AAS cost-effectively. The shift to AAS is enabled by technology advances in the integration of baseband, radio, and antenna, and a reduction in the digital processing cost of advanced beamforming and MIMO.


Passive antenna only require electronic components that need to be adjustment either manually or electrically periodically, or just during installation. On the other hand, active antennas require continuous electronic (active) adjustment of the phase and amplitude of the signals sent to each antenna element, which is why there has been an increasing trend toward integrating RF and digital technology to enable smaller footprint and lower cost antenna systems.


Beamforming and MIMO are seen as essential for millimeter-wave 5G services to function given the heightened atmospheric attenuation and proportionally narrow antenna patterns.


Advanced Antenna Systems

An advanced antenna system (AAS) is a combination of an AAS radio and a set of AAS features. An AAS radio consists of an antenna array closely integrated with the hardware and software required for transmission and reception of radio signals, and signal processing algorithms to support the execution of the AAS features. Compared to conventional systems, this solution provides much greater adaptivity and steerability, in terms of adapting the antenna radiation patterns to rapidly time-varying traffic and multi-path radio propagation conditions. In addition, multiple signals may be simultaneously received or transmitted with different radiation patterns.


Multi-antenna techniques, here referred to as AAS features, include beamforming and MIMO. Such features are already used with conventional systems in today’s LTE networks. Applying AAS features to an AAS radio results in significant performance gains because of the higher degrees of freedom provided by the larger number of radio chains, also referred to as Massive MIMO.


Advanced antenna systems (AAS) or smart antennas (SAs), will be necessary in delivering enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB), ultra-reliable low-latency communications (URLLC), and massive machine-type communications (mMTC), which are considered three pillars of early 5G use cases. Upgraded antenna technologies, such as massive multi-input multi-output (mMIMO), sub-6 GHz and millimeter-wave (mmW) carrier aggregation (CA), and full-dimensional (FD) beamforming/MIMO (FD-MIMO) are also considered essential antenna technologies that enable 5G use cases. In order to reach these lofty performance goals, antennas need to evolve past the passive and limited MIMO technology currently deployed, and become actively driven dense antenna arrays more akin to the phased array antennas used with military active antenna array (AESA) technology.


Multi-antenna techniques, are referred to as AAS features, include beamforming and MIMO. Such features are already used with conventional systems in today’s LTE networks. Applying AAS features to an AAS radio results in significant performance gains because of the higher degrees of freedom provided by the larger number of radio chains, also referred to as Massive MIMO. An advanced antenna system (AAS) is a combination of an AAS radio and a set of AAS features. An AAS radio consists of an antenna array closely integrated with the hardware and software required for transmission and reception of radio signals, and signal processing algorithms to support the execution of the AAS features. AAS is a powerful option for MNOs that want to improve coverage, capacity and user performance using existing network sites.


Advanced antenna systems, or active antenna systems (AAS) are widely considered as key technology for optimizing BST efficiency, capacity, and coverage and enabling the high user expectations of 5G services. However, leveraging AAS also means changes to cell structure, infrastructure, and antenna/RF technology to enable new 5G networks that also accommodate legacy services.


An advanced antenna system (AAS) is a combination of an AAS radio and a set of AAS features. An AAS radio consists of an antenna array closely integrated with the hardware and software required for transmission and reception of radio signals, and signal processing algorithms to support the execution of the AAS features. In essence, an AAS is a remote radio head (RRU) combined with an antenna array, which is fed data and control from a digital unit (DU)/digital baseband unit (BBU) in place of a base-transceiver station. The networking information for 5G AAS base stations is most likely to be fiber optic communications and microwave/millimeter-wave backhaul for last-mile connection. This has been the trend in the tail-end of 4G deployments and is commonly proposed for 5G deployments.


To get the full benefit of 5G, handsets should have both sub-6GHz and mmWave antenna systems coexisting in the same device. Advanced Antenna technologies that allow handsets to have both sub-6 GHz and mmWave antenna systems coexisting in the same device while achieving strict performance requirements is a new challenge. Advanced materials can be combined with smart antenna and MIMO technologies to create flexibly performing antennas with ultra-wide bandwidth and high efficiencies.


Recent technology developments have made advanced antenna systems (AAS) a viable option for large scale deployments in existing 4G and future 5G mobile networks. AAS enables state-of-the-art beamforming and MIMO techniques that are powerful tools for improving end-user experience, capacity and coverage. As a result, AAS significantly enhances network performance in both uplink and downlink.


Compared to conventional systems, this solution provides much greater adaptivity and steerability, in terms of adapting the antenna radiation patterns to rapidly time-varying traffic and multi-path radio propagation conditions. In addition, multiple signals may be simultaneously received or transmitted with different radiation patterns.


In order to enable AAS that meet design requirements in roughly the same footprint as existing passive antenna, AAS OEMs must tackle several design challenges. Integrating RF, digital, and antenna technology into a single encapsulation, while including configurability enough to avoid early obsolescence, leads to additional design considerations: thermal management, footprint minimization, power management, interconnect routing, and minimizing the added weight of all of the additional RF hardware. Hence, there are several design approaches to AAS which leverage analog/RF, digital. Or hybrid approaches to antenna transmission, reception, beamforming, and MIMO functions.


Beamforming Architectures

To realize efficient beamforming, each antenna requires an amplitude controller, phase shifter or
time delay element. A specific configuration of these elements, coupled with the antenna array geometry, determines the beamforming radiation pattern. Either open-loop or closed-loop beamforming estimates can be used to perform beamforming. Closed-loop techniques consider that the channel estimated between each transmitter and receiver antenna is known, allowing the best beamforming configuration to be obtained from the estimated channel matrix. Open loop techniques utilize a pre-established codebook for beamforming at both the transmitter and receiver. The best beamforming configuration from the codebook is selected according to the received signal strength without explicitly estimating the channel.

Depending on the choice of phase shifter types in the analog or digital domains, several beamforming architectures have been considered. Three common beamforming architectures for mmWave communications are: i) analog phase array (APA) ii) hybrid phase array (HPA), and iii) fully digital architecture (FDA).

Although FDA is popular choice for sub-6 GHz massive MIMO communications, it is less suitable for mmWave due to the channel sparsity, high propagation loss etc. HPA and APA are the preferred architectures for mmWave frequencies when performance and cost tradeoffs are considered. FDA is considered as a next-generation architecture for mmWave, with pending
advancements in circuit technologies


Analog phased array (APA) is considered as a solution to reduce hardware costs for analog to digital converters (ADCs). This architecture places phase shifters in the analog domain at radio frequency (RF), analog baseband (IF) or in local oscillator (LO) paths. Analog RF beamforming is one of the most commonly used architectures, since it requires a single mixer/LO component. However, it suffers from a high noise figure if the phase shifters are passive, or highpower consumption if the phase shifters are active.


Analog beamforming involves the use of discrete RF hardware that handles the combining/splitting, amplitude adjustment, phase adjustment, transmission, reception, and filtering necessary for beamforming and communications. With an analog approach, each antenna element, or sub-array, would require distinct RF Front-end (RFFE) hardware, of which some components could be integrated in an RF integrated circuit (RFIC), or microwave monolithic integrated circuit (MMIC), to save space and power. Moreover, to limit the size and weight of analog beamforming AAS, the use of sub-arrays that minimize some of the flexibility of single-element control is common.


However, other components, such as the power amplifier (PA), mixers, oscillators, modulators, power combiner/divider, filters, and other components may pose challenging to integrate. Do to availability of technology, flexibility, and timing, analog beamforming is currently used for the final 4G rollouts and early 5G rollouts. High-band 5G (millimeter-wave 5G) may be deployed with analog RFFE hardware for a longer period of time, is less digital technology available that operates in the 20, 30, and 50 GHz spectrum. Typically, for millimeter-wave applications, oscillators, mixers, and frequency synthesizer technology is used to generate signals in the millimeter-wave region, with recent exceptions of newer early 28 GHz digital transceivers demonstrated is the past couple of years.



All-digital beamforming technology, while still in development, is designed to fully replace RFFE components all the way to the transceiver and receiver, which would likely then be integrated or assembled in a compact transmit/receive module (TRM). Using direct digital synthesis (DDS) and direct digital conversion (DDC)/direct RF sampling (DRF), the baseband unit is entirely digitized along with any frequency conversion, beamforming configuration, modulation/demodulation, and filtering (outside of receiver and transmitter filtering to mitigate interference and enable compliance).


Such units, sometimes called antenna processing units (AAUs), would be able to feed a digital baseband unit with a digitized feed of the RF signals, which would then enable extreme bandwidth applications that could account for low-band, mid-band, and high-band 5G signals in a single AAS, as long as the AAU was capable of reaching the highest frequencies of the desired 5G millimeter-wave bands. Currently, this technology is extremely new and has likely not been deployed yet, or is undergoing field trials. With a fully capable fully-digital AAS would allow for single-element FD-MIMO, which could possibly enhance performance compared to MIMO systems where the elements are divided into sub-arrays to reduce cost, complexity, power requirements, size, or weight.



Hybrid beamforming is a combination of digital and analog beamforming techniques that helps to eliminate some of the RF hardware with digital synthesis and sampling/conversion technology. In this case, high element MIMO and beamforming antennas may still be divided into sub-arrays, but lower complexity MIMO/beamforming AAS (4T4R, 8T8R, 16T16R) may be implementing with single-element control. Hybrid AAS are likely heavier than comparable digital AAS, but are considered cost and complexity trade-offs in order to deliver late 4G technology and early 5G technology. This is likely the most common form of MIMO antenna, and also mMIMO AAS, until volume production of viable all-digital beamforming technology is available. There are currently prototypes and products being prepared for product in 2020.


Industry Implementations of AAS

Newer smartphone models, like the Samsung Galaxy S9 and iPhone X, use 4×4 MIMO (Multiple Input Multiple Output) antennas to increase throughput—the amount of data a phone can download, otherwise called bandwidth. Massive MIMO technology will increase with the rise of 5G, with 8×2 and 8×8 configurations in the near-term, and 16×16, 32×32, and 64×64 configurations, or higher, over the next several years.


Samsung Electronics, has announced the development of breakthrough 5G-ready case-integrated antenna, which incorporates dozens of antenna elements in a module that is less than 1mm thick – a critical step towards engineering both compact small cell base stations and user devices. The new technologies are intended to be applied to both 5G base stations and end-user devices using 28GHz millimeter wave (mmWave) spectrum. mmWave frequencies are widely expected to be one of the primary enablers of next-generation networks. Qualcomm announced in 2018 that it has developed breakthrough antenna technology that will help power super-fast speeds in next-generation 5G smartphones. Qualcomm claims to have done it with antenna modules about the size of a fingernail.


RFocus, a software-controlled “smart surface” that uses more than 3,000 antennas to maximize the strength of the signal at the receiver.

One of the many barriers  that have prevented the widespread adoption of 5G is that we can’t get faster internet speeds without more efficient ways of delivering wireless signals.  The general trend has been to simply add antennas to either the transmitter (i.e., Wi-Fi access points and cell towers) or the receiver (such as a phone or laptop). But that’s grown difficult to do as companies increasingly produce smaller and smaller devices, including a new wave of “internet of things” systems.


Researchers from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) looked at the problem recently and wondered if people have had things completely backwards this whole time. Rather than focusing on the transmitters and receivers, what if we could amplify the signal by adding antennas to an external surface in the environment itself?


That’s the idea behind the CSAIL team’s new system RFocus, a software-controlled “smart surface” that uses more than 3,000 antennas to maximize the strength of the signal at the receiver. Tests showed that RFocus could improve the average signal strength by a factor of almost 10. Practically speaking, the platform is also very cost-effective, with each antenna costing only a few cents. The antennas are inexpensive because they don’t process the signal at all; they merely control how it is reflected. Lead author Venkat Arun says that the project represents what is, to the team’s knowledge, the largest number of antennas ever used for a single communication link. While the system could serve as another form of WiFi range extender, the researchers say its most valuable use could be in the network-connected homes and factories of the future.


For example, imagine a warehouse with hundreds of sensors for monitoring machines and inventory. MIT Professor Hari Balakrishnan says that systems for that type of scale would normally be prohibitively expensive and/or power-intensive, but could be possible with a low-power interconnected system that uses an approach like RFocus. “The core goal here was to explore whether we can use elements in the environment and arrange them to direct the signal in a way that we can actually control,” says Balakrishnan, senior author on a new paper about RFocus that will be presented next month at the USENIX Symposium on Networked Systems Design and Implementation (NSDI) in Santa Clara, California. “If you want to have wireless devices that transmit at the lowest possible power, but give you a good signal, this seems to be one extremely promising way to do it.”


RFocus is a two-dimensional surface composed of thousands of antennas that can each either let the signal through or reflect it. The state of the elements is set by a software controller that the team developed with the goal of maximizing the signal strength at a receiver. “The biggest challenge was determining how to configure the antennas to maximize signal strength without using any additional sensors, since the signals we measure are very weak,” says PhD student Venkat Arun, lead author of the new paper alongside Balakrishnan. “We ended up with a technique that is surprisingly robust.”


The researchers aren’t the first to explore the possibility of improving internet speeds using the external environment. A team at Princeton University led by Professor Kyle Jamieson proposed a similar scheme for the specific situation of people using computers on either side of a wall. Balakrishnan says that the goal with RFocus was to develop an even more low-cost approach that could be used in a wider range of scenarios. “Smart surfaces give us literally thousands of antennas to play around with,” says Jamieson, who was not involved in the RFocus project. “The best way of controlling all these antennas, and navigating the massive search space that results when you imagine all the possible antenna configurations, are just two really challenging open problems.”


Huawei unveils new 5G antennae

Shenzhen-based Huawei has pioneered the development of so-called Massive MIMO – or multiple input and multiple output – antennae that feature arrays of transmitters and receivers to run fifth-generation mobile services. These can achieve ultra-fast data speeds by directly tracking nearby smartphone users, unlike earlier ‘passive’ antennae that communicate in a more general – and less efficient – way with their environment.


Huawei’s third generation of Massive MIMO antennae, unveiled at a client event in Zurich, double bandwidth to 400 Megahertz and boost power output to 320 Watts, making it possible to expand coverage in the mid-band frequencies that many countries have earmarked for 5G services. They will also weigh less and use less power than their predecessors, Huawei’s wireless business chief Edward Deng said in a keynote presentation.”It will eliminate the barriers to global deployment across all scenarios, and become a new standard to drive large-scale 5G deployment,” said Deng. The antennae pack 7 nanometre chips – putting them at the leading edge of semiconductor technology.


Huawei is bundling the new 5G antennae into its Blade AAU base station, a space-saving package that includes a passive antenna. That will allow operators to save space and run all of their networks from a single site.


SK Telecom and POSTECH develop 5G antenna tech

SK Telecom and Pohang University of Science and Technology (POSTECH) announced they have developed a 5G antenna control technology and have filed for a patent. SK Telecom is preparing for the rollout of 5G in March in South Korea with compatriots KT and LG uplus. It is collaborating extensively with ally Samsung Electronics in 5G equipment research, as well as Hyundai and Trimble to develop construction monitoring solutions that improve overall efficiency. The company excluded Huawei equipment from its list of vendors in September 2018.


The call quality is maintained in ultra-high 28GHz spectrum 5G by controlling the electrical characteristic of the antenna. Ultra-high frequency reception sensitivity can be affected by how users hold their smartphones or the angle of their head but the new technology has been developed to offset that. Power consumption of smartphones also decreases due to increased reception sensitivity. Ultra-high spectrum such as 28GHz requires components to be placed in a smaller area compared to LTE, with SK Telecom and POSTECH. This was taken into account when finishing testing for commercial launch.


Qualcomm Technologies and Vivo Communication Technology Co., Ltd. integrate new 5G millimeter wave technologies with sub-6 GHz in a commercial form factor

From an antenna design perspective, sub-6 GHz technologies are fairly well understood, as they’re similar to what was used in previous 3G and 4G generations. However, mmWave technology is new, and the antenna design strategies are different. Sub-6GHz relies on single-element, low-gain, omni-directional antennas, while mmWave requires a narrow-beam, high-gain antenna system that consists of multiple radiators that are coherently combined. Integrating both technologies, while achieving strict performance requirements that many operators require, is a new challenge.


Ericsson is working on an antenna that could be placed under carpets or hung on walls.

During the the Mobile World Congress  Ericsson, the Swedish supplier of telecom equipment demonstrated strip of plastic containing printed circuit boards and tiny antennas able to pick up and send 5G data. Along the walls at one of Ericsson’s demos, the strip was embedded behind a thin piece of wallpaper or hidden by a thin plastic housing. Another strip was laid under a long train of carpet that was rolled up.


This little strip could have big implications for how 5G might get deployed. Carriers are still struggling with how to deal with the limitations of millimeter wave spectrum, which is why many are opting to use lower-frequency (slower, but broader) spectrum. The huge number of small cells — miniature cellular towers — required to create a network is another obstacle, since many cities don’t want that many eyesores in their communities.


AT&T Chief Technology Officer Andre Fuetsch, in an interview with CNET at MWC, referred to its 5G deployments as “small pockets.” But the ease with which you could hang up (or roll out) these strips, or even temporarily install them at an outdoor venue, could turbocharge the deployment of 5G by offering better coverage in little corners. By offering a simpler, easier method for stringing up antennas that are compatible with millimeter wave spectrum or even mid-band frequencies, the strip could let users get the maximum benefit of 5G.


Movandi develops Millimeter Wave Phased Array Antenna for 5G

Developing high frequency networks operating in the millimeter wave band present unique technical challenges versus traditional connectivity and cellular systems. First, higher frequencies have greater transmission losses caused by distance, blockage, and non-line-of-sight conditions, depending on the environment and the application. To achieve longer range, beamforming antennas are often required, adding to system complexity. Solving these challenges will unlock the huge potential offered by much greater bandwidth, spatial reuse, and frequency reuse, which support much higher performance systems in the same regions.


“The implementation of 5G mm-wave radios will require high levels of integration between the antenna and the radio,” said Joe Madden, Principal Analyst, Mobile Experts LLC. “The industry is looking for innovative solutions that combine high-efficiency amplifiers with a steerable array of antennas, packaged in a cost-effective way. We believe that the best approach is for a single supplier to optimize the entire integrated antenna radio unit as a module, instead of separate suppliers for each RF component. This is a long-term market opportunity with potential to grow into the billions of dollars.”


Movandi, a venture-backed startup with a mission to revolutionize millimeter wave networks,  announced BeamX technology, a scalable RF front-end system solution. Movandi’s BeamX front-end integrates RF, antenna, beamforming, and control algorithms into a modular 5G millimeter wave solution targeted for Customer Premises Equipment (CPE), small cell, and base station applications. Movandi’s technology is configurable to support different baseband/modem SoC solutions and is uniquely positioned to become the complete RF and antenna system, from baseband interface to antenna, for new applications in 5G, indoor gigabit access, the last mile, and satellite networks.


The superior performance of Movandi’s RFIC, phased array antenna, and beamforming techniques enable the next generation of 5G and multi-gigabit connectivity that is driving new applications. “With 5G trials underway and quickly approaching, the industry is searching for innovative radio solutions that effectively utilize the high frequency spectrum, millimeter wave networks,” said Maryam Rofougaran, Co-CEO and COO, Movandi. “We started the company one year ago, and today we are demonstrating our technology for the next wireless revolution of multi-gigabit connectivity.”


“At Movandi, we have taken a unique approach in the industry, going far beyond the role of a traditional fabless semiconductor company, innovating from the device level to the system level and relentlessly challenging old assumptions,” said Reza Rofougaran, CTO and Co-CEO, Movandi. “Our proprietary solution is designed as a complete system combining the entire RF front-end and antenna versus today’s solutions that are simply a mix and match of individual components. We believe this approach will lead the industry while enabling a significant time to market performance and power consumption advantages over similar competing products.


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