2020 design predictions

The ongoing deployment of 5G is currently dominating the RF and microwave market. While many of the early deployments are concentrating on the sub-6GHz bands, I believe that the use of the mmWave frequencies bands will be essential in order to obtain the headline 5G data-rates that have been targeted. Operating a cellular communications system at mmWave presents many challenges due to factors including the much higher path losses suffered by non-line-of-sight links and the difficulty of obtaining in-building reception. Technical solutions like electronic beam steering have been demonstrated, and these will be incorporated into 5G user terminals to help mitigate the impact of non-line-of-sight links. Seamless switching to a WiFi network will help mitigate poor in-building coverage, as will the use of technology such as neutral hosting or distributed antenna systems (DAS) in enterprise scenarios. Other operational difficulties will inevitably be encountered as mmWave 5G technology continues to evolve, but I believe that the industry will step up and address these as they arise.

At the component level, innovative IC packaging is needed for the successful incorporation of mmWave front-end modules (FEMs) into commercial 5G products. Work in progress in this area includes the development of Antenna in Package (AiP) components providing all of the mmWave functionality with IF and DC/control interface. This results in a single mmWave component that can be handled by RF product manufacturers in an established manner, thus allowing mmWave 5G user terminals to be developed at a price that is realistic enough to drive a rapid uptake in the market.

The roll-out of mmWave 5G, with its increased density of base stations, will also create significant growth in the demand for high data-rate point-to-point links. Wireless backhaul offers much lower deployment costs and faster installation compared to fiber. E-band point to point links are an attractive option due to the availability of large amounts of spectrum (10GHz of bandwidth at 71 to 76GHz and 81 to 86GHz) on a light license basis.

Outside of 5G, I anticipate a continued growth in interest for broadband satellite communications at Ku-band and Ka-band. Many regions of the world have no wired infrastructure, and the availability of broadband satellite communications will allow them to benefit from broadband connectivity without the overhead of installing fixed infrastructure.

Originally published on EDACafe