Beam steering moves antennas closer to 5G
by Martha DeGrasse
As mobile networks evolve from 4G to 5G, antennas will change to support more data traffic without overloading towers, mobile devices, or small cell support structures. In addition to massive MIMO (multiple-input multiple-output), antenna makers are investing in beam steering software that can optimize signals and increase bandwidth.
At the device level, beam steering antennas can help manufacturers boost reception and throughput without increasing the size of the device. Antenna maker Taoglas, which has recently developed a beam steering antenna solution in partnership with Adant, said it will help IoT device makers support two carriers without building two separate modules into a device. In addition, performance on each carrier network improves dramatically with beam steering.
"Based on software it's able to ... find the best signal possible and increase throughput, increase coverage by up to 100%," said Taoglas CMO Landon Garner. "You are essentially taking four LTE antennas and then using software and the algorithms within that software to find the best signal and then directionalize that antenna ... That's one thing that I think the automotive OEMs are salivating over."
Antennas that use software to direct beams are also coming to towers and small cells. Carriers already use remote electrical tilt to change the direction of antenna beams based on data demand, but beam steering offers even more control.
Antenna maker Blue Danube uses machine learning to dynamically direct RF energy to network traffic while steering clear of interference. Blue Danube says tests with a U.S. mobile operator showed downlink capacity improvements of up to 100%. The company is using its technology to optimize inter-cell and inter-sector performance so that operators deploy massive MIMO sites in closer proximity to one another without interference.
“Until now, we have only seen Massive MIMO deployed on individual sectors, not on multiple sectors facing each other,” said Joe Madden, founder and principal Analyst at Mobile Experts. “Blue Danube’s results on clustered Massive MIMO deployments represent a critical milestone, provide compelling evidence that the technology can have broad impact across entire operator networks.”
Landon Garner of Taoglas said the auto industry is interested in beam steering antennas.
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