Engineering 101

Building 5G+ Infrastructure Tile by Tile

According to the latest forecast by Gartner, Inc., 5G+ (5G/Beyond 5G) is the fastest-growing segment in the wireless network infrastructure market. Currently, 5G+ technologies rely on large and bulky antenna arrays that only come in very limited sizes, making them difficult to transport and expensive to customize.

Researchers from Georgia Tech’s College of Engineering developed a solution with an additively manufactured tile-based approach that constructs on-demand, massively scalable arrays of 5G+ (5G/Beyond 5G) ‐enabled smart skins with the potential to enable intelligence on nearly any surface or object. Their study, recently published in Scientific Reports, shows that the solution is easier to scale and customize than current practices and features no performance degradation when scaled to a vast number of tiles.

The team fabricated a proof-of-concept, flexible 5×5-centimeter tile array and wrapped it around a 3.5-centimeter radius curvature. Each tile includes an antenna subarray and an integrated, beamforming integrated circuit on an underlying tiling layer to create a smart skin that can seamlessly interconnect the tiles into very large antenna arrays and massive MIMOs.

The proposed modular tile approach means tiles of identical sizes can be manufactured in large quantities and are easily replaceable, reducing the cost of customization and repairs. This approach combines removable elements, modularity, massive scalability, low cost, and flexibility into one system.

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