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IBM and Ericsson plot to deploy 5G. Never mind that it doesn't exist

Antennas. Tiny antennas. EVERYWHERE

Ericsson and IBM have announced a collaboration to jointly research phased-array antenna designs for 5G, which might prove interesting as nothing has yet been agreed on what 5G might involve.

Crucially for this work, nobody's yet decided what frequencies 5G will operate on – although Ericsson has previously said it’s looking for 500MHz of contiguous spectrum at above 6GHz and that the technology will be an evolution of LTE.

Ericsson and IBM will research phased-array antenna techniques to develop prototype systems that will serve more mobile users, enable a multitude of new services on the same frequency, as well as offer data speeds that are orders of magnitude faster than today – competitive to existing cable and wired internet access speeds.

The phased-array design allows for more directional antennas that are electrically steerable and will have significant weight and flexibility advantages over existing mechanical antennas.

It’s expected that 5G will call for massive MIMO (multiple input, multiple output) and the work between IBM and Ericsson will integrate something in the order of a hundred antennas and radios on a single chip smaller than a credit card. It is expected that these will be used in high-capacity small cells in indoor spaces and dense urban areas.

Thomas Norén, Head of Product Management Radio at Ericsson, said in a canned statement: “Ericsson is performing world-class radio research that will enable the extremely high data rates that will be required in the future. We have already showed 5 Gbps over-the-air in trials back in July. We are also working to solve the size barrier and look forward to developing antenna technology with IBM that will open up possibilities for new uses.

We recently launched the industry’s most flexible small cell, which allows for concurrent use of multiple technologies. Even with its tablet-sized footprint, the form-factor was limited by components inside. This research collaboration will help us enable mobile network builds that provide the right coverage and capacity even in the densest urban environment.”

Dr. Mehmet Soyuer, manager of the Communication and Computation Subsystems Department at IBM Research says: “We have accumulated over 10 years of experience in developing radio frequency (RF) integrated circuit and packaging solutions, demonstrating highly integrated phased arrays for various applications. We look forward to collaborating with Ericsson to help shape the future of mobile communications.”

Ericsson believes that there will be a need for a new generation of mobile technology in the coming decade – 5G – and sees that as an evolution of LTE, in addition to new wireless technologies. 5G will represent an evolution of the “user experience”, but it will also enable new device-to-device and M2M applications that will affect both consumers and industry. These future technologies will build upon the investment that operators have made in 4G LTE, and will use higher frequency bands and smaller cells for better performance.

IBM Microelectronics has a long history of collaboration with Ericsson in the wireless communications market. ®

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