Ericsson and IBM Research have announced what they labelled a "research breakthrough" in 5G network technology, saying a new silicon-based millimetreWave (mmWave) phased array integrated circuit could accelerate 5G uptake.
As part of their two-year collaboration on 5G, Ericsson and IBM developed an integrated circuit with a phased array antenna module that operates on the 28GHz spectrum band, to be used in 5G base stations. mmWave bands, portions of the electromagnetic spectrum, allow for speeds that are more than 10 times faster than the frequencies used currently for mobile devices.
It is a "significant step" towards developing modules that are commercially viable thanks to their size, weight, cost, and performance, Ericsson said.
In developing the compact and low-cost solution, the companies made use of Ericsson's expertise in mobile communications circuit and system design, and IBM's knowledge of highly integrated phased array mmWave and packaged antenna solutions.
"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," said Thomas Noren, senior advisor for Ericsson's Network Products business unit.
"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."
The 2.8x2.8-inch device has four monolithic integrated circuits and 64 dual-polarised antennas that allow it to be deployed in dense areas and indoors.
Ericsson and IBM also announced their successful demonstration of simultaneous dual polarisation to receive and transmit signals, which enables one of its phased array antenna modules to form two beams concurrently, thereby supporting double the end users.
While antennas at 28GHz are tiny, the combination of multiple antennas increases the range of connectivity as well as enabling beam-steering, the companies said. Ericsson and IBM's device allows for a beamsteering resolution of less than 1.4 degrees.
Ericsson has been actively working on 5G network technology, earlier this week attaining data transfer speeds of 3.6Gbps on connected cars travelling at 170km/h, the fastest speeds reached over a 28GHz-based 5G pilot, in partnership with SK Telecom and BMW.
Last year, Ericsson also achieved download speeds of between 18Gbps and 22Gbps during the first live trial of 5G in Australia with Telstra, with the trials conducted in a real-world outdoor environment using Ericsson's 5G radio testbed.
The 20Gbps speeds were split between two mobile devices, with each one getting around 10Gbps download speeds thanks to the use of Massive Multiple-Input, Multiple-Output (MIMO), which sends multiple channels of data at the same time, allowing users to have peak performances simultaneously.
In addition, a moving vehicle achieved download speeds of between 1Gbps and 6Gbps thanks to the use of beamforming technology, in which antenna arrays steer a beam to where a user is.
Telstra and Ericsson in February announced that they will conduct a trial run of Telstra's 5G network during the 2018 Commonwealth Games in the Gold Coast, with Telstra's team of network engineers temporarily transferred to Ericsson's Sweden-based research lab as part of the deal.
The two companies in 2015 announced their 5G network, later confirming its launch by 2020.