The smart antenna market will benefit significantly from the deployment and operation of Fifth Generation (5G) cellular networks. Today, smart antennas provide simultaneous and efficient coverage for 2G, 3G, and LTE. This translates into higher throughput and improved coverage for when and where customers need it. While this is helpful in terms of pre-5G optimization, it will arguably become critical for support of 5G network optimization and support for true 5G mobility with continuous connection within a given coverage area. Accordingly, the 5G smart antenna market will be robust for ICT infrastructure providers in general and broadband equipment providers in particular.
5G Smart Antenna Market Dynamics
As many in the industry understand, Fifth Generation (5G) cellular will facilitate many advancements in communications, applications, content, and commerce. One of the most important aspects of 5G is the New Radio (NR) portion that utilizes millimeter wave radio frequency (RF) propagation. 5G NR (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 United States 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, back-haul, and front haul), 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.
5G Smart Antenna Market supports Apps and Vo5G
In addition, the 5G smart antenna market will be very important for Voice over 5G (Vo5G) coverage. Once 5G networks are operational, continuous Vo5G coverage will be facilitated by directing RF where it is most needed for communications. In absence of 5GNR for Voice over NR (VoNR) coverage, Vo5G calls will need to hand-over to LTE, analogous to how LTE handover to 3G was accounted for in 4G deployments. However, there is a big difference. Unlike LTE, which is becoming increasingly ubiquitous (especially in metro areas), 5GNR will be more constrained and thus needing smart antennas to direct RF signals to optimize QoE for VoNR.
A few key technical approaches to designing smart antennas including adaptive arrays and miniaturized, low-power transmitters. In addition, smart antennas rely upon certain RF propagation techniques such as beam-forming (beam steering) as they rely upon antenna arrays to focus signals into narrow beams to reduce interference and amplify the signal between base station and device. Smart signal processing algorithms allow 5G smart antennas to identify the spatial signal signature of RF such as the direction of arrival. This is used for calculation of beam-forming vectors necessary to locate and track an RF beam to a target wireless device.
With this phased array approach, RF energy is reinforced in a desired direction while suppressed in undesired directions. Phased array antenna systems may also lock onto two waves (from a given device signal) to simultaneously connect to two separate eNodeB network elements. This provides improved signal selection/usage management and ultimately improved connectivity and QoS.
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. There are some important differences between the LTE and 5G smart antenna market. For example, 5G smart antennas leverage Multi-user MIMO (Mu-MIMO) whereas LTE only uses Single User (Su-MIMO). As the name implies, Mu-MIMO is used to provide operational efficiency in a multi-user environment, which is to say every 5G mobility environment. In contrast, certain 5G solutions such as fixed wireless and other single-user use cases are fine with only Su-MIMO.
However, 5G is expected to support many mobile applications, including many massive IoT solutions such as the asset tracking market in which many connected enterprise assets are tracked in numerous locations simultaneously. Mu-MIMO enables 5G antennas to provide improved access control, reducing queuing delays when multiple devices (smartphones, wearables, and numerous IoT devices) simultaneous seek a connection. This reduces RAN congestion and improves overall throughput, which will provide improved QoS, especially in the massive IoT environment of the future.
5G Smart Antenna Market Report
This report evaluates the 5G smart antenna market including key players, technologies, and solutions. This includes analysis of product and service strategy for smart antenna vendors. The report evaluates the role and importance of smart antennas in terms of 5G network optimization including data speed enhancement and error rate reduction. The report evaluates and provides forecasts for the smart antenna market by Type (SIMO, MISO, MIMO), connectivity, and application globally and regionally. It also assesses 5G smart antenna support of Internet of Things (IoT) solutions, providing forecasts for IoT applications. The report includes detailed revenue forecasts as well as projected smart antenna shipment from 2018 – 2023.
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