Author, Dr. Mohamed Nadder Hamdy
If I was asked to name one key enabling technology behind superb 5G performance, I wouldn’t hesitate to choose beamformers.
A renowned movie series legend has it that several thousand years ago, the fictional planet Cybertron was consumed by a civil war between the two Transformer factions: the good Autobots led by the valiant Optimus Prime and the villainous Decepticons led by the evil Megatron.
These legendary Transformers are known to brilliantly transform their shapes, from humanoid robots to common street vehicles. Similarly, our new 5G beamforming antennas possess special ‘superpowers’ that can dynamically transform their radiating patterns shapes. It is for this reason that we like to call them beamformers. Our new superheroes are relentlessly fighting back against the network interference of the Decepticons, bringing better signal-to-interference-plus-noise ratio (SINR) to planet Earth for the benefit of all humankind!
Beamformers are available in a range of configurations and offer different capabilities, with each best suited for a specific environment. Although beamformers might look dissimilar to the untrained eye, they all rely on phase shifting techniques to direct their beams. By tuning the antenna radiating elements phase, a number of constructive and destructive patterns are created, thereby deflecting the resulting beam in a desired direction. Beamformers can be further categorized intro three promary designs:
- Based on either active or passive array structures
- Utilize digital, analog or hybrid beamforming
- Equipped with several radio transceivers, ranging from 8T8R and higher
Passive beamformers are typically built over a passive beamforming antenna connected to an external 8 transceivers radio with coaxial cable jumpers. This beamformer can have 2D horizontal beam steering capability. We can think of this solution as the ‘Bumblebee’ Transformer: smaller, of less cost and power demands, yet also practical and handy in many situations.
As we equip our beamformers with more transceivers, it becomes impractical to have external radios weighed down with countless jumper cables. This is precisely why we developed active beamformers with radios embedded inside the antennas. Equipped with 32 or 64 transceivers, the beamformer can have optimal 3D horizontal and vertical beam steering capabilities. This is like the colossal Optimus Prime: an expensive, heavy, power hungry machine that is also a super strong beamformer hero!
Would you like to learn more about how we design and build our beamformers? You can download our latest white paper: “Beamformers Explained (Part 1)” here.