GSM, 3G, 4G LTE, 5G SUB-6 ANTENNA DESIGN
What makes cellular antenna design different?
One of the largest drivers of antenna technology and design over the past decades has been cellular networks and portable devices. 2G, 3G, 4G LTE, and now 5G have all build upon its predecessor with an added layer of complexity. At the same time development that started with phones lead to smartphones, IoT sensors, wearables, and many more applications.
Cellular systems are operated by cellular operators that license frequency bands from public officials. This is a big contrast to many other systems that use ISM bands. This also means that there are a lot of different frequency bands in use for cellular systems and they vary across the world.
When you have several frequency bands to cover you need 2, 3, 4, or multiband antennas that are generally more complex and sensitive for errors. They also need more space compared to single-band antennas.
In speaking language, cellular frequency bands are grouped together. Different variations exist but we prefer to use two different ways depending on the band configuration:
1. Split in two:
- Low-Band (LB), 699-960 MHz
- High-Band (HB), 1710-2690 MHz
2. Split in three:
- Low-Band (LB), 699-960 MHz
- Mid-Band (MB), 1710-2170 MHz
- High-Band (HB), 2500-2690 MHz
Antenna performance requirements
Network operators associate their brand with the quality of connection to their network. The quality of the connection depends on the performance of user equipment (UE) connecting to the network. For example, a smartphone (UE) with a bad antenna will behave poorly in the network which is seen as limited coverage by the user, and on many occasions, the network operator will be blamed. This is the reason why some network operators have their own performance requirements for devices in their network. These requirements can be really challenging to meet.
Typically, requirements are set for
- Total Radiated Power (TRP)
- Total Radiated Sensitivity (TRS/TIS)
When you do not need to meet the performance targets of network operators benchmarking your device to others in the market is the best option. Aalborg University has studied the performance of recent mobile phones.
|Commonly used cellular bands||Frequency [MHz]||Uplink [MHz]||Downlink [MHz]|
In addition to network operators placing their requirements for your device government, regulators place limits to the performance. These are due to public safety and interoperability reasons. Limits themselves are not specific to only cellular systems but the combination of high-performance requirements and challenging antenna design lead to situations where extra attention needs to be kept not to reach safety limits.
In terms of antenna design there are two criteria that are important:
Limitations these two create are tackled by shielding the user body from the antenna and making the radiation as omnidirectional as possible. The criteria limits vary between countries and device types.
Multiple antennas per band
Latest LTE and 5G standards include diversity and multiple-input-multiple-output (MIMO) antennas. The purpose of those is to improve the reliability of connections by increase reception sensitivity and enable higher data rates.
Diversity antenna is a second reception (Rx) only antenna with different radiation characteristics than the main antenna which has transmission (Tx) capabilities as well. Both Main and Diversity antennas should be about equal in performance to get the most benefit out of the diversity
functionality which is about 3dB.
MIMO can have 2, 4, 8, or even more MIMO antennas in reception (Rx-MIMO). Usually, there is only one transmission antenna but in a certain application, multiple Tx-MIMO antennas are used. For a MIMO antenna to be useful they need to differ from each other which means the location, antenna itself, or both need to be different from one antenna to another.
Radientum Services for Cellular antenna design
We offer antenna design services for full product development projects from feasibility studies through different design stages to consultancy at the mass production phase.
Our antenna simulations are critical at reaching accurate performance forecasts in the early stages of development enabling informed decisions before the manufacturing of prototypes. Simulation enables us to use our extensive know-how in product integration to find new innovative antenna solutions.
We can also measure both TRP and TRS of a cellular system in our own anechoic chamber against communication tester. This means that a Test-SIM card is the only thing needed to get measurement started and the communication tester will control your device.
We specialize in high performance integrated solutions that are cost-driven. Check our references!