IBM and Ericsson have achieved a breakthrough in developing a silicon-based 5G millimetreWave (mmWave) phased-array antenna module that can operate at 28GHz.
The array can be used in future 5G base stations which could speed up the launch of 5G networks.
This can allow network operators to provide higher data speeds to customers compared to speeds currently available and accelerate the deployment of internet of things, virtual reality and connected vehicle applications.
IBM and Ericsson have been working on the project for around 2 years now. According to IBM, its expertise in highly integrated phased array mmWave IC and antenna-in-package solutions, paired with Ericsson’s expertise in circuit and system design for mobile communications, fueled the breakthrough.
The phased-array antenna module consists of four monolithic integrated circuits and 64 dual-polarised antennas, measuring about 2.8” by 2.8”.
According to the companies, the compact form factor will help in wider deployment of the technology.
The module has also demonstrated concurrent dual-polarisation operation in transmit and receive modes. This can help one phased array antenna module to form two beams simultaneously, doubling the number of users to be served at the same time.
IBM noted that the use of mmWave signals for mobile communications presents a major hurdle, which is achieving sufficient range between radios to support target applications.
At the frequency of 28GHz, each tiny antenna would support short communication distances individually.
The signal range can be further increased as well as steered in specific directions by combining multiple such antennas.
On the other hand, Ericsson said that it will be focusing on how industry will adopt 5G standards globally and deliver capabilities and services beyond the present 4G offerings.
It stated that 5G standards need to have the capability to increase data capacity to each user, while at the same time cater to a higher number of mobile users and new devices. One of the ways in achieving this is by the development of advanced antenna technologies.
Ericsson Business Unit Network Products senior advisor Thomas Noren said: “There has been a lot of encouraging progress in 5G standardisation last year including the beginning of live field trials.
“Big efforts in research and development are key to this and our collaboration with IBM Research on phased array antennas can help operators to effectively deploy radio access infrastructure necessary to support a 5G future.
“New use cases and applications that span human machine interaction, Virtual Reality, smart home devices and connected cars will depend on innovative technologies that can bring the promises of faster data rates, broader bandwidth and longer battery life to reality.”
IBM Research Science & Solutions vice president Dario Gil said: “The development of this 5G millimeterWave phased array is an important breakthrough, not just because of its compact size and low cost, which make it a very commercially attractive solution for network equipment companies and operators, but its potential to unleash and inspire brand new ideas and innovations we haven’t yet imagined, thanks to a fully networked society.”