5G. It was going to be a long road to rollouts in 2020. But now it’s looking like 2016 will be the first field implementations. That’s good news as our mobile data traffic is growing rapidly. According to Gartner, “Global mobile data traffic is set to reach 52 million terabytes (TB) in 2015, an increase of 59% from 2014. The rapid growth is set to continue through 2018, when mobile data levels are estimated to reach 173 million TB.”

Most of what we hear about 5G is speed…massive increases that will be 30 to 50 times faster than 4G/LTE. But 5G is also about low latency. Today, latencies run about 75 to 100 ms. 5G is aiming for a mere 1ms. This not only improves the online gaming experience, but allows for remote surgery and mission-critical Industrial IOT (IIoT) applications. 5G will also bring lower power consumption, traffic prioritization, and the real possibility of cutting all those cables running to our front doors.

The Next Generation Mobile Networks Alliance recently published a paper summarizing the core goals of 5G:

  • Provide far greater throughput, lower latency, and higher connection density;
  • Cope with a wide range of use cases and business models, a high degree of flexibility, and scalability by design;
  • Leverage foundational shifts in cost and energy efficiency;
  • Offer the end user a consistent customer experience achieved across time and service footprint; and
  • Provide a truly global 5G ecosystem, free of fragmentation and open for innovations.

In addition, the group released technical documentation on “Recommendations For Small Cell Development and Deployment” and “Backhaul Provisioning for LTE-Advanced & Small Cells.”

But designing, building, and testing 5G wireless prototypes is a complex engineering feat. According to Kevin Linehan, VP and CTO of antenna systems at CommScope:

If 5G is really going to deliver speeds that are up to 1,000 times faster than the 4G we use today, it needs to utilize the spectrum it will travel over more effectively. Like the journeys to 3G and 4G, the RF path will be critical to the arrival at ‘Destination 5G,’ as will be the need for a high signal to noise ratio (SNR) to ensure a robust data service. This ratio has become increasingly important as the demands for high-speed data increase.

New multi-antenna technologies, such as Massive MIMO systems, are considered the most likely candidates to significantly improve spectral efficiency in 5G networks.  Implementing MIMO with large-scale antenna arrays, typically with 64 or more transceiver elements, is expected to increase the capacity of a cell well beyond what is achievable today. Large-scale antenna systems become more practical in terms of size at higher frequencies, where the wavelengths become shorter. These antennas are likely to be an important technology in spectrum bands above 2GHz and in TDD spectrum where handset feedback is not needed.

5G will require adding more spectrum while continuing to support previous air-interface technologies and managing multiple frequency bands. Ever more sophisticated RF beamforming and interference mitigation technologies will need to be utilized.

The Challenge of High Frequency PCB Materials

Screen Shot 2015-11-23 at 10.05.21 AMAs users demand smarter, lighter, higher performance devices on ever faster networks, designers of mobile devices and antennas need to balance weight, size, radiation characteristics (such as gain, beamwidth, side-lobe levels, polarization) and cost. The PCB substrate material has a major impact on circuit performance. Low dielectric constant (Dk)/low dissipation factor (Df) materials are desired to maximize radiation efficiencies of antennas while keeping overall losses to a minimum.

Rogers Corporation Advanced Connectivity Solutions provides a broad selection of high frequency circuit materials designed with these considerations in mind. Designers needing best in class performance or commercial high frequency materials can find solutions in Rogers’ extensive product portfolio and through collaboration with Rogers R&D teams to develop unique solutions for this new technology. 5G is shaping-up to impact every aspect of our lives. Finding the right balance of material performance and cost is a challenge for a technology that is yet to be fully defined.

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