Scientists have developed a beam-steering antenna that improves data transmission beyond 5G standards, potentially paving the way for better network connectivity in the near future. This will allow mobile communications to use a range of frequencies that were previously unavailable. The beam-steering antenna, which is about the size of an iPhone, has been developed as a better alternative to the currently fixed base station antenna. At higher frequencies, fixed antennas were found to be inefficient, limiting their use for long-distance transmission.
The new device can track a phone in the same way that a satellite can track a moving object, but at a much faster rate. The device, developed by University of Birmingham researchers, emits a continuous wide-angle beam and has been found to improve data transmission efficiency at frequencies across the millimeter-wave spectrum. These included frequencies such as 5G (mmWave) and 6G, which were mechanically steered antenna solutions to achieve high efficiency.
The device’s experimental results were presented at the 3rd International Union of Radio Science Atlantic / Asia-Pacific Radio Science Meeting recently.
The new technology has been made to work with the current 5G specifications used by mobile communication networks. Furthermore, unlike traditional antenna systems, the device does not require inefficient and complex feeding networks. It is based on a low-complexity system that improves performance while being simple to implement.
The device was created using a metamaterial, which is made up of a metal sheet with micrometer-sized holes that are evenly spaced. It has an actuator that regulates the height of the cavity in the metamaterial, allowing the antenna to focus radio waves into highly directive signals. As a result, transmission efficiency improves significantly.
“Although we developed the technology for use in 5G, our current models show that our beam steering technology may be capable of 94% efficiency at 300 GHz,” said Dr. James Churm, one of the lead researchers, highlighting the device’s potential.