Did you know that people typically check their smartphones over 250 times per day? 80% check their phone when they wake up, 70% use their phone when in the restrooms and 40% look at their phone when driving despite it being illegal in most countries. 

From such data one can understand that with more than 6.6 billion smartphone users in the world, looking on average 250 times a day on the smartphone, the way one can hold the phone may be a gigantic issue. 

Regardless of whether you are standing, sitting, laying down or jumping you expect the device to have contact with the Internet so that you can use your favourite application whenever you desire.

For communication on radio frequencies below 6 GHz, i.e. the radio frequencies used in 3G and 4G today, a traditional antenna design with one or a few antennae, mainly at the top of the phone, is sufficient to handle all kinds of weird ways to hold a mobile device.

The introduction of communication in the mmWave radio frequency range in 5G, giving a tremendous increase of capacity in the network as well as enabling VR and AR applications requiring Gb/s data rates, comes with some challenges for smartphone applications. For instance, putting a finger on the antenna may drop the radio signal strength 100-1000 times (20-30 dB) so even a  world class single antenna design placed at the top of the smartphone may not be sufficient. Also, if you are lying in your bed streaming your favourite series and having the phone in landscape mode, your hand will block the single antenna. Therefore you need a multi-antenna solution, not only to direct (beamform) your signal towards the base station, but also to have a sufficient number of antennae that are not blocked by your hand regardless of how you hold the smartphone!

Classical multi-antenna design for mmWave in handheld devices is based on distributing a number of antenna panels using analog beamforming in the phone. This is a very bulky solution, restricting the number of panels to 2 or 3 (placed at the top and on one or two of the sides). However, this will still not solve the hand blocking problem for all of the ways in which you can hold the smartphone, leading to a risk of a bad connection causing  lagging or – even worse – a dropped connection.

To solve the problem, one needs a distributed antenna approach based on digital beamforming. Instead of having 2-3 antenna panels with 4 antennae, one needs 8-12 antennae distributed around the device with the capability to operate each antenna and radio transceiver independently of each other in order to combat the hand blocking problem.

Figure text: (A) shows a traditional mmWave solution for smartphones, with 3 antenna panels, each having 4 antennae. When the phone is in landscape mode, 2 out of 3 antenna panels are blocked giving bad signal quality in many directions (blue colour). 

(B) shows BeammWave’s digital beamforming solution with 12 RF chips (i.e. 12 antennae) distributed around the phone. In landscape mode there will always be sufficient antennae which are free from hand blocking thereby giving good signal quality in all directions (red to green colour).

BeammWave understands all aspects of the mobile device challenges with mmWave communication and can deliver a sustainable, high performance, scalable digital beamforming solution that is optimised for handheld devices, thus making it possible to maintain a high speed connection to the Internet regardless of how you may want to hold your smartphone!

Posted by Bengt Lindoff

Chief Systems Architect with +1.900 approved patents

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