by Sam Benzacar, President – Anatech Electronics
If you’ve been following 5G in the media you’ve no doubt noticed a dramatic increase in coverage that began just before Mobile World Cup Congress in February. It’s almost like 5G was just around the corner rather than five years away, but if you dig into the details, it’s not hard to see why the flag-waving is starting now. No matter how you measure it, the fifth generation of cellular technology promises to be the most significant change to the wireless industry since Dr. Martin Cooper made the first cellular phone call. It’s essentially an almost complete revision of the way networks are constructed, the devices to which they’ll connect, the speeds at which they will operate, and a massive reduction in round-trip latency to less than 1 ms that seems to defy the laws of physics.
Of course, as Anatech Electronics manufactures RF and microwave filters and filter-related products, we naturally tend to look at new wireless technologies, markets, and frequency allocations from the perspective of interference. And as 5G will dramatically expand the frequencies at which networks will operate from currently just below 3 GHz to various points in the spectrum all the way to 60 GHz, the issue of interference will take on an entirely new persona.
The challenge is not designing and manufacturing filters exhibiting exceptional interference rejection and other performance metrics at very high frequencies well into the millimeter-wave region. Anatech Electronics and other filter manufacturers have been effectively addressing them in point-to-point-microwave links, satellite communications, and defense applications for many years. The real problem is that unlike its predecessors, 5G ambitiously aims to connect every type of device that could be connected by wireless means.
This includes devices from the usual smartphones and tablets to the man-to-machine and machine-to-machine devices that fall into the category of the Internet of Things, as well as robots, autonomous vehicles, and many other systems. It will essentially attempt to act as a form of aggregator for the various wireless standards that today feverishly compete for supremacy in the IOT arena, a fight that continues to impede the growth of this potentially massive market.
With so many different types of systems and so many frequencies to address, the severity of interference that they will cause will only show its face once the first 5G networks are deployed. However, like all other forms of wireless communications, interference is inevitable.
So if you’re currently in the early stages of designing subsystems or systems that will ultimately be used in 5G, it’s definitely not too soon to begin thinking about interference and how you’ll solve it.