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5G smart antennas in IoT market will reach $8.36B by 2027

The market for 5G smart antennas in IoT will reach $8.36B by 2027, according to Research and Markets.

Key findings:

  • 5G will provide continuous mobility largely within only metropolitan areas
  • Multiple Input Multiple Output smart antennas represent the fastest-growing type
  • In addition to network optimization, smart antennas reduce energy needs and other resources
  • 5G antennas will be an absolute requirement to support the smart cities market and related services
  • Smart antennas will benefit greatly from interworking with next generation smart surfaces technologies
  • In terms of frequency ranges, FR1 will lead through 2027, but FR2 is growing nearly three times as fast at CAGR of 37.7%

Smart antennas use multiple antennas
Smart antenna arrays use Multiple Input/Multiple Output(MIMO) at both the source (transmitter) and the destination (receiver) to improve signal quality. This is in contrast to non-array systems in which a single antenna (and signal path) is used at the source and the destination. The market for smart antennas is nothing new as they provide efficient coverage for2G, 3G, and LTE. However, 5G smart antennas will be necessary to provide mobility support for many new and enhanced apps and services such as virtual reality, self-driving cars, connected vehicles, and voice over 5G.

Smart Antennas use beamforming
Beamforming represents the use of highly focused RF energy, which is directed at the point of need/use. This is in contrast to early technologies employed in cellular communications that were omni-directional in nature. Beamforming is used with 5G as higher frequencies are very prone to attenuation.

RF energy is focused in a narrow beam to exactly where it is needed rather than emanating the same energy in a broad area. Beamforming is especially useful for 5GNR as the higher frequency mmWave RF is subject to fading over distance and attenuation loss caused by hitting objects (buildings, cars, foliage, etc.).

A more directed beam of RF energy helps to ensure a greater probability of optimal bandwidth and signal quality. However, it is important to note that line of sight is still an issue as beamforming advantages are diminished with attenuation.

Smart antennas to interwork with smart surfaces
While largely in the R&D phase, smart surface technology will soon be productized for certain early adopter applications such as communications, heat dissipation, and various sensing solutions. The publisher sees smart surfaces initially being placed onto existing facilities such as factory walls, buildings and other assets. Over time, smart surfaces will be integrated into manufacturing and building materials. In enterprise environments, personnel will become increasingly less aware of the presence of smart surfaces as they will be prefabricated as part of walls, desks, etc.

The communications industry will benefit from smart surface technology as solutions will facilitate self-adaptable and/or reconfigurable materials that can modify radio signals between transmitters and receivers. This will enhance capacity, coverage, and security. It will also create opportunities for future applications such as positioning, localization and embedded computing/intelligence. The addition of reconfigurable feature/functionality creates an opportunity to offer wireless-on-demand as a service.

Because 6G RF operates in a much higher frequency range than even 5G mmWave, there will be significant coverage issues due to antennation issues. The publisher predicts that the beyond 5G market will be focused on the confluence of ultra-high-speed, ultra-low-latency, and ultra-reliability within a very short range. This is because we anticipate 6G market solutions to leverage the advantages of terahertz frequencies and minimize the disadvantages, which all revolve around issues related to RF operational issues in a post-millimeter wave environment.

To solve some of the anticipated challenges, the 6G will require some of the same innovative technologies that will be put in place starting with 5G NR such as smart surfaces for improved coverage and signal relay. The publisher also envisions advances in supporting technology areas such as edge computing. In fact, we see edge computing evolving as a shared responsibility between networks and devices.

Smart antennas and network optimization
Smart antennas will improve 5G coverage and optimize capacity by focusing RF signals where they are needed the most. In addition, smart antennas enhance 5G application and service mobility by facilitating amore continuous connection, which may become particularly useful at 5G coverage seams. Otherwise, a 5G enabled user experience may degrade as hand-over from 5Gto LTE occurs.

5G cellular networks promise to improve many aspects of wireless communications, supporting enhanced mobile services, greater scalability for IoT systems, and ultra-reliable communications for mission-critical applications. A portion of these benefits will be based on the evolution of 4G LTE technologies as well as unique capabilities enabled by 5GNew Radio (5GNR), based on new infrastructure supporting millimeter wave (mmWave) RAN equipment.

5GNR especially needs smart antennas, because it utilizes mmWave RF propagation. 5GNR involves a much lower wavelength (millimeter as compared to centimeter to a meter for LTE) and therefore a higher frequency. Physics dictates that higher frequencies need more power and/or more coverage as an RF signal fades more than a lower frequency signal. This is why there will need to be at least an order of magnitude more antennas than required for LTE. Putting this into perspective, the US will go from roughly 30,000 antennas to 300,000 or more nationally.

5G antennas will be found virtually everywhere in metropolitan areas, but it will not be enough. While dramatically increased coverage will surely support many early 5G applications, such as fixed wireless (ISP alternative, backhaul, and fronthaul), it will not be enough to support continuous 5G mobility coverage. This will be vitally important for certain applications such as self-driving cars and connected vehicle services that often require high bandwidth on-demand.

CT Bureau

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