Feature Article

November 24, 2014

Ericsson, IBM Partner on 5G Phased Array Antenna Research Effort

Ericsson, a giant in cellular network infrastructure, and IBM, which has expertise in integrated radios, are collaborating on a research project to build a phased array prototype for 5G networks.

The effort will advance one of the key enablers that will allow for higher frequency, higher bandwidth technology to drive data rates and drive down energy consumption in a 5G context, Hakan Andersson, head of 5G product management at Ericsson, told MobilityTechzone last week.

Phased array technology already exists, he said, but not in such adaptable configurations. That’s needed now because moving up in frequency creates challenges with coverage. As frequency goes up, wavelengths become smaller, so you can pack a lot more in, but it’s helpful to do advanced processing to allow multiple antennas to cooperate to increase coverage.

The work Ericsson and IBM are doing, he said, will use a high number antennas – like a hundred – and result in a prototype solution that can control the direction of multiple beams for different mobile users and that can be configured in milliseconds. Those antennas and radios will reside on a single chip smaller than a credit card, according to Ericsson, meaning they will be suitable for use in high-capacity small cells for indoor spaces and dense downtown areas.

The demand for such solutions is expected to grow as the number of M2M devices and mobile data traffic multiplies. In the recently issued Ericsson Mobility Report, the company forecast a ten-time growth in mobile data traffic and a three to four time increase in M2M devices (from 200 million at the end of 2013) by 2019.

This collaborative work on phased array antenna technology already has begun, and the companies expect to demonstrate early results in late 2015 or early 2016, Andersson said, adding that the ITU expects 5G networks to go live in 2020. He said at this point there are no set plans for productizing the technology, emphasizing the collaboration between Ericsson and IBM is a research-only effort.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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