IBM and Ericsson have announced that they have made a “research breakthrough” that could accelerate the launch of 5G communications networks.

They have created a compact silicon-based millimeterWave (mmWave) phased array integrated circuit operating at 28GHz that has been demonstrated in a phased array antenna module designed for use in future 5G base stations.

The companies said that they hope the development will also support new mobile enterprise and user experiences enabled by very high data rates, including the Internet of Things (IoT), connected vehicles and immersive virtual reality.

Scientists at IBM Research and Ericsson reached their breakthrough after two years of collaboration that set out to develop phased array antenna designs for 5G.

Thomas Noren, senior advisor of business unit network products at Ericsson, said that there has been a great deal of progress in 5G standardisation in the last year, pointing to live field trials as one example.

He added that real effort in research and development is key to further developing 5G and that his firm’s work with IBM Research on phased array antennas will help operators effectively deploy radio access infrastructure necessary for the future.

Mr Noren explained: “New use cases and applications that span human machine interaction, virtual reality, smart home devices and connected cars will depend on innovative technologies that can bring the promises of faster data rates, broader bandwidth and longer battery life to reality.”

Dr Dario Gil, vice-resident of science and solutions at IBM Research, added that the development of this 5G mmWave phased array is important because of its “compact size and low cost,” making it a commercially attractive solution for network equipment companies and operators, as well as its “potential to unleash and inspire brand new ideas and innovations we haven't yet imagined, thanks to a fully networked society”.

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