back to article Psst, says Qualcomm... Kid, you wanna see what a 5G antenna looks like?

Qualcomm is getting ready to ship one of the relatively boring bits of the 5G puzzle – well, perhaps boring for you, but fascinating for electronics geeks: a compact transceiver/antenna combo that fits inside phones to provide 5G millimetre-wave communications. Mm-wave transmissions are a crucial part of ultrafast next- …

  1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

    In other words

    My super magnificent 'Thing' is better than your (putrid little) 'thing'

    What these tests don't bother to ask is 'do the users notice?'

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: In other words

      If the speed really is almost twice as fast, they'll notice something. Especially when comparing a YouTube video on one with and one without one of those 5G thingys.

    2. mosw

      Re: In other words

      "'do the users notice?'"

      Since the radio spectrum is always shared, achieving higher bit rates and throughputs per channel implies that they can support more customer per channel. This would mean more potential revenue for cell operators and a better data experience for customers in congested areas.

  2. Simon Rockman

    Not really mmWave

    At 28Ghz the wavelength is over 1cm.

    1. tip pc Bronze badge

      Re: Not really mmWave

      1cm = 10mm

      Higher frequencies = shorter wavelengths, so it’s in the realm of credibility.

      1. JeffyPoooh Silver badge

        Re: Not really mmWave

        The antenna would presumably be dielectrically loaded, to make it physically smaller by many severals-to-one. The grey bit is probably a ceramic that performs this role. The antenna elements are presumably printed onto it sort-of like a PCB.

        ^- Speculation Alert.

    2. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Everything is mmWave

      After all, one meter is 1000mm, so . . .

      That said, the custom when using the mm measure is to deal with a few of them, unless you're in the construction business when practically everything is measured in mm, even if there's 250 of them. Looks like the comms business is using the same approach.

      1. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

        Re: Everything is mmWave

        isn't it (IUPAC?) convention to use 10^3 scales, ... so millimetres, metres, kilometres, but never centimetres?

        1. pɹɐʍoɔ snoɯʎuouɐ

          Re: Everything is mmWave

          isn't it (IUPAC?) convention to use 10^3 scales, ... so millimetres, metres, kilometres, but never centimetres?

          On schematics of almost everything, its generally best to keep all measurements in a single unit... in fact, in the box of details found at the bottom, it should specify what the units are...

    3. mosw

      Re: Not really mmWave

      "At 28Ghz the wavelength is over 1cm."

      Yes, they should be called sub-decimeter waves.

    4. JeffyPoooh Silver badge

      Re: Not really mmWave

      Simon Rockman, "At 28Ghz..."

      You're not allowed to nitpick wavelengths unless you can correctly capitalize GHz. :-)

  3. Francis Boyle Silver badge

    Who is this person

    who isn't an electronics geek and is reading the Register and why isn't something being done to get rid of them?

    1. TonyJ Silver badge

      Re: Who is this person

      Haha..have an upvote.

      's what I studied many many many (sigh) years ago.

      Although I moved out of the field many, ma...oh you get the idea - quite a while ago, I'm still very much interested.

      1. Glen 1 Bronze badge

        Re: Who is this person

        >Although I moved out of the field

        Was it... an electromagnetic field?

  4. Mage Silver badge


    Aerial designs are fundamentally decided by the wavelength, about 300/(Freq in MHz) metres.

    Then gain. Higher gain are more directional once you get past the gain of a 1/4 wave whip. Omni-directional aerials have poor to terrible gain, especially if smaller than 1/4 wave and not in free space.

    Frequencies below 900MHz give progressively too much range and poor control of cell size, so poor frequency reuse. The channel size and number of channels is limited. Frequencies above 2.5GHz are progressively poor range, more line of sight and useful only in open plan offices or roof top point to point links.

    Speed is related to channel size and signal to noise (power, interference, more aerial gain = more directional). Basically you are very limited in aerial gain (usually negative) due to handset & needed omnidirectional, you are very limited in power. So the signal to noise can't be much different to EDGE on GSM (0.2MHz Channel), or HSPA on 3G (5MHz channnels) or LTE /WiMax on 4G (Up to 20MHz channels). See where the speed is coming from?

    The 5G is about integration of bands, infrastructure and logical operators (RAN). Not more speed in the same channel size, nor more bands. More bands are an effort by regulators to make more money and higher ones by Mobile to replace "free" WiFi.

    Only the new 2.3GHz and 2.5GHz bands are much use for cellular mobile (3G & 4G are already on 2.1GHz and the old 1.8GHz and 900MHz (0.9GHZ) that used to be GSM only now have 3G and 4G too, depending on country/location.

    So can we all ignore the "5G" hype. Almost all of it is totally misleading.

    Of course an aerial for a higher band is small!

    28GHz is garbage for mobile. Nice for a pair of dishes with LOS, or for up to 10km, a panel array of aerials about 10cm x 10cm x 2cm on your chimney. Totally useless for a handset, except with a pico base-station on the ceiling in each room.

    I've a lot of 10GHz terrestrial gear and worked with Ku and Ka band satellite gear. I was working on projects 12 years ago using these bands.

    1. Poncey McPonceface

      Re: Stupid

      Took me a while but now I see what you're getting at. You're saying that you're smarter than all the comms engineers at Mediatek, Qualcomm, and Intel, and all the mobile network base station equipment manufacturer engineers in East Asia, Europe, and North America.

      “Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former.” should actually have been phrased as “Only two things are infinite, the universe and *the human ego*, and I'm not sure about the former.”

    2. Serg
      Thumb Up

      Re: Stupid

      Yes, yes, yes, etc, but no. Kind of. It depends.

      I very much doubt that they're planning on replacing all the current 4G spectrum with 25GHz+, but then again I'm not an industry 'expert'.

      What I would imagine is that there will be a high number of relatively very small 5G cells, covering anything from a patch of street to an open office area; small because of the inherent frequency limitations, but fast.

      To complement this, 4G LTE will carry on alongside, to fill in the larger yet sparsely-populated spaces and also the numerous areas that don't have dedicated 5G cells. I would hope that this would also mean that the 4G cell bandwidth will be less congested, which ideally would mean better service. I've long lost count of the number of times in Central London that I had full 4G+ signal and yet I couldn't get any data through.

      It'll be a small miracle to see clients roam between 5G & 4G cells seamlessly though, and for the telcos to actually provide the required backhaul to each cell...

    3. Chronos Silver badge

      Re: Stupid

      28GHz is garbage for mobile.

      I think you'll find that this "end" of 5G is actually focused (sorry) on FWA. 5G isn't all about the phombies wandering about waiting for the next pointless Tweet.

    4. JeffyPoooh Silver badge

      Re: Stupid

      Mage claimed, "Frequencies below 900MHz give progressively too much range and poor control of cell size..."

      It's quite trivial to (conceptually) reach over and turn down the RF power (at both ends). There's no reason why the range can't be dynamically controlled to be whatever is required. I understand that the mobile end is typically limited to something like five steps, as remote-controlled by the network. In principle, it could be infinitely adjustable.

      In summary, the range can be adjusted as required to whatever you like. This applies to any RF link where it's Line of Sight and internal noise floor (i.e. VHF and up; HF has too many wildcards, but isn't applicable to this discussion anyway).

      PS: Antennas can be dielectrically loaded, hugely. Thus the phased array in a very tiny package.

    5. JeffyPoooh Silver badge

      Re: Stupid

      Mage noted: "Omni-directional aerials have poor to terrible gain..."

      Omni-directional antennas don't have to be isotropic. An omni antenna can concentrate the signal along the horizon to provide up to moderately-high gain and signal at all azimuths. Classic example is the vertical collinear array.

      An isotropic antenna is the one that illuminates the entire sphere equally. And by definition thus provides 0dBi gain in all directions.

      For mobile communications, where the platform (human hand-held phone, aircraft, or spacecraft) is tumbling around in all directions, then high gain antennas on the platform are generally a bad idea. The exception is where they're dynamically and actively controlled to electronically steer the signal in the desired direction. It's complicated but increasingly feasible.

      The far end (the tower) can use an electronically steered antenna to focus a high gain signal on the mobile user. If they're far away, then the direction is stable. If they're close, then it doesn't matter.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It’s still all non-ionizing radiation, so it won’t cause cancer. It would only cause ill effects if you’re standing next to a cell tower broadcasting at 30+ Watts. 5G is more about more plentiful cell sites all with a lower average power, so they should be even better than the current situation, not worse

    1. crocks

      I suspect the next generation (or so) of the BT Hub will ship with a 5G Antenna inside it then if thats the case. Likewise for Talktalk's version of their Internet Hub. And we will be back to the days of BTWifi taking a chunk of your valuable broadband bandwidth.

  6. Pangasinan Philippines

    Don't cover the antenna with your hand

    "The trouble is that mm-wave communications don't have much range, are quite narrow and focused, and can't penetrate walls and get into buildings"

    So using 5G indoors will not work. You can't even get a 3G signal in Tesco!

    Should be a market opportunity for 5G repeaters somewhere.

  7. Barry Rueger Silver badge

    I'll wait...

    So, in short, it would be smart to wait out the first couple generations of 5G phones until they make it actually work right.

    Oh well, wireless prices in Canada are so expensive that no-one can afford to use that much data.

    1. JeffyPoooh Silver badge

      Re: I'll wait...

      BR mentioned, "...wireless prices in Canada..."

      Worse than the price, Rogers occasionally forgets to plug the Ethernet cable into the "tower". So I sit here with a lovely 4G signal with 4 or 5 bars, and essentially zero data throughput. Being in the forest, I don't suspect heavy data usage from all the spruce trees. So I'm left to conclude that Rogers are idiots.

  8. FlossyThePig

    How big?

    Top left is the 5G transceiver module, a Snapdragon X50 chip, and coin for comparison

    Sorry but how big is that foreign coin? is it the same as a 1p, 2p, 5p, 10p, £2 or perhaps a €0.01?

    1. druck Silver badge

      Re: How big?

      It's a US cent coin, about the size of an old 1/2p..

  9. JeffyPoooh Silver badge

    The coin (featured in the image) needs to be updated

    Should read: IN QUALCOMM WE TRUST

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