Today, millimeter wave (mmWave) radio links are the dominant backhaul solution in telecommunication infrastructure such as 5G, particularly for cellular wireless access in dense urban areas where high capacity and compact size are critical.
From a hardware perspective, 5G carriers have been confronted with several challenges in the implementation of antenna systems operating at the mmWave frequencies of 30-300GHz.
For one thing, mmWave front end modules cost more than the ones operating at microwave bands. The reason lies on both employed active devices as well as passive elements. For instance, critical passive components, such as filters and antennas, shrink in size and require high precision manufacturing and assembly, which is not only expensive but also slows down the development cycle of new products.
Also, hardware integration of mmWave front-end subsystems requires low-loss and cost-efficient interconnect and packaging solutions in order to minimize the loss of the precious signal power which is hard to generate at mmWave range.
An innovative engineering solution to these challenges has been the use of metasurfaces. Considered a hardware integration technology, so-called Multi-layer waveguide (MLW) can provide the desired features for an optimum hardware technology: high performance, simple integrability, cost effectiveness and mass production capability.
MLW technology has been developed by Metasum AB, and Ericsson Research has been involved in several project collaborations related to further development and industrialization capabilities of MLW passive components.
Still, experts in this field say that the MLW technology should not be viewed as a technique for specific passive components only, but a HW integration solution for mmWave systems. MLW provides a unique compact modular concept that can include all critical building blocks of a mmWave system.
An additional advantage is that upon modifications of the system specifications, different MLW modules can be developed and assembled by using the same fabrication method, therefore achieving a customized system with the benefit of a considerable cost and design time saving for high-volume productions.
5G is designed to get the most out of every bit of spectrum across a wide array of available spectrum regulatory paradigms and bands—from low bands below 1 GHz, to mid-bands from 1 GHz to 6 GHz, to high bands known as millimeter wave (mmWave).
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