Time has come for mobile operators to use beamforming and achieve even better performance in mobile communications.
In beamfroming, an active antenna emits 64 signals in parallel, all of which are individually controlled and aligned to customers.
Beaming – that’s what some of us know. Legendary sentence from the science fiction series: “Beam me up, Scotty!”
But while it is still not possible to beam people or objects like the USS Enterprise, the word “beam” actually leads the way in terms of beamforming. Because these targeted mobile radio beams are one of the most important technologies of the future 5G network. This technique is very fascinating.
What is Beamforming?
Nobody can answer this question better than Sebastian Gunreben, the 5G Integration Manager at Deutsche Telekom. He explains: “Beamforming is the next step to MIMO .”
As a reminder: In 4×4 MIMO, a kind of Quattro drive for the mobile network, provide four transmit antennas on the mast and four receiving antennas in the terminal for about 60 percent faster surfing. From the previous maximum LTE speed of 300 megabits per second (Mbps) are so to the 480 Mbit/s.
Beamforming takes up this principle, but increases it again by a factor of 16! Because here an active antenna emits 64 signals in parallel, which can all be individually controlled and aligned to customers. “These are 64 reception and transmission elements to form 64 different beams.
Instead of broadcasting a mobile radio signal in a circle, which then becomes weaker and weaker in the edge area, the signals can be aligned in beamforming, i.e in the “shaping of beams”, in the form of elongated lobes. With this beam, the signal is then similar in the edge area of the cell as in the center.
However, the antennas do not move. “The beam is formed by a phase shift of the signal and multipath propagation – the antenna itself remains static.” The beams are fully automatic, so that the transmission power can be adjusted as needed and ensures optimal coverage for each user.
In the new technology, no telecom employee sits under the antenna to direct the beams at the individual customers. Because that happens fully automatically. The transmission power is adjusted as needed and provides optimal coverage for each individual user.
Anyone who calls on the phone and only has a small amount of resources is also covered by the appropriate beam as a customer who is currently streaming a video with a high data rate. Result: Mobile communications, tailor-made as needed. And the horizontal and vertical orientation of the new active antennas also increases the coverage – especially in urban areas with tall buildings. Incidentally, beamforming is also used in WLAN.
How fast is 5G beamforming?
So far, the new technology is not running outside in “wild”, but in the lab. “There, of course, we have perfect conditions and get several gigabits per second,” reveals 5G specialists.
In reality, the Beams are making sure we get close to these lab values, and there will always be a point where we can achieve similar data rates become.” Deutsche Telekom’s customers can therefore look forward to real gigabit mobile communications.
What happens if there are more than 64 users in a cell?
One of the most important principles of beamforming: “The 64 lobes or beams are not aimed at a single user, but ultimately form locally a club. That is, it can quite within a beam several customers are served – and depending on what you request for network resources. “
A good example is a tourist group standing in front of Eiffel Tower and taking selfies. Their members are all captured and cared for by the same beam. But who uploads his photos via 5G on Instagram, needs and receives a higher performance and data rate than the tourist colleague next door, who only calls home.
This is the crucial difference between a passive mobile phone antenna and the new beamforming.
“The antenna performance remains more or less the same when compared to a conventional antenna, but the previous antenna always transmits with the same power, 24 With beamforming, I can virtually call up this performance only when there really is a need in this cell. “
Is gigabit speed the main advantage of beamforming?
Speed is one thing. But the higher network coverage through the new technology even more important. Because: “With a static antenna, we have a certain propagation field, so if we are at the edge of the network, it may be that we can not get high data rates anymore or that the service per user does not work.”
The active antenna, on the other hand, “sees” when a user is at the edge of the network – and specifically directs a beam at him. “That’s why we suddenly no longer at the edge of the net, but within a beam.” This gives customers higher data rates, and the services work.
Beamforming Advantages and Disadvantages:
So here are benefits of beamforming:
- The main principle of this technology is the biggest advantage and that is boosting the power of beams in the desired direction to serve the farthest subscribers in a best way by reaching them to telecom cell towers or base stations. This increases supporting capacity of a cellular tower in terms of number of subscribers.
- The RF signal can overcome noisy and attenuating channel environment due to the increase of C/N ratio of the signal in 5G beamforming. This increases coverage capacity of the cell tower or base station.
- Owning to its immunity against fading and interference it is widely used with MIMO in latest wireless technologies viz. Mobile WiMAX (IEEE 802.16e), LTE, LTE-Advanced, 5G etc.
There are also shortcomings or disadvantages of Beamforming
- In this set up multiple RF antennas are used so making hardware complexity higher.
- The beamforming system is based on advanced high processing DSP chips so more power consumption is required.
- Because of above mentioned reason, cost of beamforming system gets higher compare to non-beamforming system.
- Amram is a technical analyst and partner at DFI Club Research, a high-tech research and advisory firm .He has over 10 years of technical and business experience with leading high-tech companies including Huawei,Nokia,Ericsson on ICT, Semiconductor, Microelectronics Systems and embedded systems.Amram focuses on the business critical points where new technologies drive innovations.