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iPhone-sized beam steering device to take mobile communications beyond 5G: study

In a step that could help achieve better network connectivity in the near future, scientists have developed a beam-steering antenna that improves data transmission beyond 5G standards. This will provide access to a range of frequencies for mobile communications that were previously out of reach. With the size of an iPhone, the beam steering antenna was developed as a better alternative to the fixed base station antenna currently in use. Fixed antennas proved ineffective at higher frequencies, which limited their use for long-distance transmission.

The new device is able to track a cell phone the same way a satellite tracks a moving object, but at a much faster speed. Developed by researchers at the University of Birmingham, the device provides a continuous wide-angle beam and has been shown to improve the efficiency of data transmission at frequencies spanning the millimeter wave spectrum. These included frequencies such as 5G (mmWave) and 6G where high efficiency is achieved using mechanically directed antenna solutions.

Experimental results of the device were recently presented at the 3rd International Union of Radioscience Atlantic/Asia-Pacific Meeting on Radioscience.

The new technology has been made compatible with existing 5G specifications that are currently used by mobile communication networks. In addition, the device does not require inefficient and complex feed networks that are used by conventional antenna systems. It is based on a low-complexity system that improves performance and is also easy to perform.

The scientists developed the device using a metamaterial, created from a sheet of metal containing evenly spaced diameter micrometer holes. It has been fitted with an actuator that controls the height of the cavity in the metamaterial and allows the antenna to focus radio waves into highly directional signals. This leads to a significant increase in transmission efficiency.

Highlighting the potential of the device, Dr James Churm, one of the lead researchers, said: “While we developed the technology for use in 5G, our current models show that our beam steering technology can be capable of 94% efficiency at 300 GHz. ”

He added that the device has many uses such as vehicle radars, satellite communications, space and defense applications and automotive, among others.


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