Multiple 5G Communications
Although the widespread commercial rollout of the 5G network happens in 2020, numerous telecommunications companies are testing new technologies and will present 5G-related advancements in 2019.
For 5G’s arrival to be successful, though, equipment must exist to support the new network.
Scientists working at Fujitsu Laboratories made a significant step toward that goal when they developed the world’s first single antenna panel able to handle simultaneous, high-speed communications to four users.
Since the advancement is capable of communication speeds higher than 10 Gbps, it’s suitable for the 5G network.
How It Differs From Other 5G Systems
Conventional 5G systems that transmit to multiple terminals require one antenna panel for each terminal. However, when devising this new development, Fujitsu’s engineers could exert high-accuracy control over separate signals coming from 128 elements of the antenna panel.
As such, they limited the interference between signals, allowing the communications to occur in four directions.
More specifically, the team created a phased array chip that regulates the phase of a signal from an antenna element with an accuracy rate of one degree or less. Fujitsu also depended on circuits that could pick up on phase differences between the phased array chips, allowing that same amount of control for antennas with between 64 and 256 elements.
The team also can vary the signals in horizontal or vertical directions, thereby broadening the communications area. The antenna gives speeds of up to 2.5 Gbps per person, allowing for small and energy-efficient base stations that perform reliably.
When testing the antenna with 128 antenna components and 16 phased array chips, Fujitsu researchers found the power consumption was around 10 watts — about the same as a Wi-Fi access point.
Paving the Way for 5G-Ready Products
Although companies are still ironing out the specifics of 5G equipment, most of the associated efforts assume that the base stations used will have relatively small coverage areas and be placed less than 50 meters apart. The base stations will also be exceptionally compact, increasing the deployment possibilities.
For example, Fujitsu’s new technology allows putting the antenna components on one printed circuit board (PCB), instead of using the two or more panels required for older technologies. Eventually, this improvement could bring the 5G network to highly trafficked areas, like train stations, without showing connectivity losses as more people use the service.
This innovation shows how it’s necessary to ensure individual components of equipment can accommodate 5G. For example, PCBs — regularly used in telecommunications towers, as well as aerospace, the maritime industry and medical devices — are part of many smartphones. And, the amount of smartphone owners in America is 77 percent and rising, which means many consumers have at least one device containing a PCB.
A different study about laminating materials used for PCBs takes into account that 5G-capable machines will operate at higher temperatures, and how the PCBs must be made to withstand the higher levels of resultant thermal stress. The research paper on the matter explores the relationship between temperature levels and electrical performance, also defined as insertion loss.
Researchers know that although 5G will bring about many advancements, such progress is not possible without considering how the new network will place different demands on components than those parts experienced on older networks.
Multiple Companies Developing Small-Cell Technologies
Fujitsu engineers will continue to develop its advanced antenna technology with the goal of commercializing it soon, although not in the next year. Since Fujitsu is involved in 5G trials in Japan and the United Kingdom, there’s a chance that further tests of the innovation could happen in those places.
But, Fujitsu is not alone in its development of small-cell technologies for 5G. Nokia, as well as Australian telecommunications provider Telstra, are two of the other brands working on small-cell equipment that’s necessary for the successful deployment of the network.
Moreover, Vodafone will install equipment on manhole covers that provide 4G and 5G coverage across an area of more than 650 feet. The company is eager to move forward with this option, particularly because it’s possible to install the technology with minimal disruption to community members and without changing the appearance of an area.
An All-Encompassing Strategy Is Necessary for Success
The work carried out by Fujitsu’s experts demonstrates how it’s essential to assess known challenges and figure out how to overcome them. One of the main issues here was that conventional base stations must have one antenna panel per user.
But, since the progress involved one antenna panel accommodating communications for multiple users, new base stations could be significantly superior to older ones.
When other companies take a similar problem-solving approach, they’ll be able to get equipped for 5G, too.
By Kayla Matthews
Kayla Matthews is a technology writer dedicated to exploring issues related to the Cloud, Cybersecurity, IoT and the use of tech in daily life.
Her work can be seen on such sites as The Huffington Post, MakeUseOf, and VMBlog. You can read more from Kayla on her personal website.