The last two decades have seen a mesmeric rise in mobile communication, we have overseen the move from 1G to 4G and are now in the process of witnessing the launch of 5G technology in 2019.
During this period the amount of data and information that is being handled has multiplied beyond many peoples comprehension, and the component that has made all of this happen is the often understated – Antenna.
The development of the antenna is the lynchpin of 5G technology, and we are seeing yet another transformation whereby they are becoming smaller, thinner but way more powerful than we have witnessed to this point.
5G itself is purported to deliver transmission rates up to ten times what 4G is currently capable of. This will be the platform and set the standard of global communications moving forward, and the keys to achieving this ultra-high-speed communication are millimetre and beamforming technology.
With ground-breaking technology, multiple advancements must be made in conjunction with each other, and this is far from an exception, the current and traditional antenna cannot handle such capacity so what is behind the latest development and how far can the understated antenna take us in this 5G revolution?
Antenna design has undergone thorough redevelopment to be able to handle what 5G is about to bring.
The metamaterial concept brings many benefits with it from the perspective of specific antenna design. The current metamaterials we have in use have been nothing but successful with 3G and 4G platforms, achieving higher gain, lower profiling, miniaturisation with higher frequency bands.
Package Integrated Antenna
Also known as the substrate. These are used generally with high-frequency bands such as millimetre. The loss of the antenna can be large even though the antenna size of the band is relatively small, the meaning is better to integrate the antenna with the substrate package at the terminal itself.
This can be a cost saving mechanism, with less complexity and help to increase radiation efficiency while increasing filter characteristics.
Using an electromagnetic lens can reduce costs, reduce complexity, and increase radiation efficiency. The characteristics of the antenna array are one of shielding interfering signals which could be great. The lens again is mainly used on high-frequency bands, but can be challenging to use as the high-frequency antenna is not significant and the wavelength itself very small.
The MEMs Application
MEMs can be used as a switch when the frequency is very low, so it can be used for multi-purposes if the antenna can be controlled and reconstructed.
Millimetre Wave Antenna Design – What we do know?
5G is going to have low-frequency and two-millimetre wave frequency bands. In doing so, the wavelength of the millimetre wave will be extremely short and very expensive. So this is a problem that must be solved.
Substrate integrated antenna (SIA) as a Possible Solution
It is primarily based on two techniques
The empty waveguide can be used for feed transmission as when the empty waveguide transmits; the mediums loss is small. However, there are problems on the horizon with this solution.
Due to it being an air waveguide, and predominantly large it really cannot be used to integrate with other circuits, though it could be used in high-powered larger volume applications.
Another possibility is microstrip technology, on the positive side it can be mass-produced, but as a transmission medium, it is a loss in itself and not feasible to construct a large-scale antenna array. It is suitable for high-power, large-volume application scenarios though.
The Japanese were the first to publish a paper on Substrate-Integrated waveguide technology back in 1998. The stated that it is possible to be produced based on these two techniques.
The Japanese industrial community first proposed this technique. They had deduced that an ultra-thin dielectric substrate with a small pillar could be used in conjunction to block electromagnetic waves, thus avoiding both sides expand as a waveguide is implemented.
It’s relatively easy to understand when the two pillars get separated by the quarter of a wavelength; you don’t get energy leaking out. This results in higher efficiency, lower profile, higher gain, makes integration more accessible and a low loss antenna.
Package Integrated Antenna (PIA)
This is the second solution where you design the antenna in a package.
Due to the loss being too substantial with the chip and the chip size being itself tiny, you can’t get the large-scale engineering involved, and the antenna design cost would be too high. The limitation of loss, volume and cost of manufacturing the antenna onto the silicon can be avoided when the antenna is designed using a package which is larger than the chip, using it as a carrier. So the single antenna and an antenna array can be developed, in reality, you can have the antenna everywhere, so it’s not tied to just being at the top, or the bottom of the package.
People wonder whether or not the actual PCB board itself could be used as an antenna, well the good news is the answer is ‘Yes’.
The critical issue here is not the materials themselves; it’s more the design and problems material in conjunction with the processing problems. However, in reality, the PCB is only useful up until 60GHz anyhow, after that LTCC is the go-to up to 200GHz then LTCC bottlenecks.
The future holds for the industry one in which the antenna will be designed in harmony with the system as opposed to a separate design. The bottleneck needs to be broken to achieve the correct signal processing on the system, in doing so the antenna has become an integral part of the 5G mobile communication system. It is now so much more than a radiator; it now has filtering characteristics, surpasses interference signals and amplification.
With it not requiring energy to achieve gain the antenna has proven itself to the world to be way more than just a device. It is the cornerstone by which the whole world communicates today.
Jimmy has been a blogger for 11 years after retirement. He worked in the electronic manufacturing field for 32 years and keeps a close eye on the market. He is associated with http://www.winsig.com.au who supply and specialise in the latest caravan TV aerial, caravan antenna and mobile phone antenna.