Embedded 5G antennas for small devices

The high speed and responsiveness of 5G connectivity is becoming increasingly present across wireless devices. IoT, tracker and industry devices are all utilising impressive throughput and bandwidths to excel in their respective applications. For smaller devices however, 5G antenna integration can become a challenge due to its wideband certification requirements. Embedded antennas act as a solution but what are they, and how does 5G connectivity impact their integration?

What are embedded antennas?

Embedded chip antennas are contained within a device or component, operating alongside various other internal electronics. Depending on the type of embedded antenna, they can be placed on the device’s internal PCB or attached to the product housing. These antennas have paved the way for the miniaturisation of technology, providing designers with a compact and hidden alternative to the typically large and noticeable terminal and external antennas. Small IoT, wearable and asset trackers are but a few examples of compact devices that utilise embedded antennas.

The challenge of using embedded antennas, however, lies in the various integration factors that dictate their connectivity and performance. Firstly, embedded chip antennas have only one radiator, and require a conductive ground plane that functions as a second radiator. This ground plane must be at least a quarter wavelength of their lowest frequency signal to function; if the ground plane is too short for the specific frequency band, the antenna will lose TRP (total radiated power) and efficiency. Secondly, their embedded nature means they are vulnerable to noise and interference from other internal components, which can negatively affect connectivity.

How does 5G connectivity impact embedded antennas?

One of the most prominent integration challenges of embedded antennas derives from the specific frequency band they operate on. These are the allocated frequencies the antenna communicates with, depending on the wireless technology it uses. 5G chip antennas operate on a wide range of frequency bands, usually separated into low-band (below 1GHz), mid-band (1-6 GHz) and millimetre wave (>10 GHz) spectrums.

At higher 5G cellular frequencies, devices have exceptional data speeds and bandwidth (as high as 400 Mbps), but sacrifice connectivity range as a result. Millimetre wave (mmWave) bands exhibit 10x to 20x smaller latency rates than its predecessor of 4G LTE, but at a range of only 100 metres with an inability to penetrate walls or windows. Nevertheless, the testing and certification process of 5G devices requires them to operate across all target frequency bands rather than just one.

The requirement to operate on a broadband frequency spectrum makes the integration of embedded 5G antennas an intricate process for small devices. Wave frequency is inversely proportional to its wavelength, meaning that lower frequency bands require larger ground planes to function. As 5G must be able to operate on low frequency bands as well as high, antennas themselves must occupy either more space on the board or use a larger antenna. Because of this, finding the right 5G antenna solution is a vital step in small wireless device design; without thorough research could result in a failure to achieve certification through inefficient TRP.

What are the types of 5G embedded antennas?

SMD
FPC

SMD

Surface-mounted antennas are the forerunners of miniature embedded chip antennas. They are mounted directly onto the host PCB of a device, and were the first form of embedded antenna to substitute its terminal and external counterparts. SMD chip antennas are simple to integrate with low part cost and compact size, as well as being suitable for high-volume manufacturing using pick-and-place machinery.

In the context of 5G connectivity, SMD antennas require fairly substantial ground-plane space to perform. Moreover, as these antennas are placed alongside components on a PCB, they are susceptible to component noise and interference that can impact wireless performance. Both these factors make integration an integral early stage of design for devices that wish to use 5G SMD antennas.

069-antenna

FPC

Flexible printed circuit antennas are a form of embedded antenna that brings flexibility to device design. They have a unique adhesive strip that is also malleable, allowing them to be attached to the inside of a device housing. The ground plane for the antenna is on the strip itself, freeing up valuable PCB space for other components as well as avoiding component noise and interference.

For 5G devices, embedded FPC antennas can bring flexibility to design, but not without its limitations. Even though FPC antennas can be placed away from the PCB, RF interference can still affect wireless performance and requires specific amounts of clearance. Moreover, For high-volume manufacturing, they come with a certain level of assembly complexity, as they must be installed by hand, limiting their use in high-volume manufacturing runs.

Affini FPC antenna

Pharaoh - built to perform

Pharaoh is an SMD antenna built to be larger than other choices to ensure performance and efficiency at the low bands of 5G where many devices fail certification. That said, it has a size footprint of 37.0 x 13.0 x 3.3 mm, making it appropriate for an array of small to medium devices. Pharaoh is designed to perform at the peak of performance so that you can have confidence in the connectivity of your device.

 

Learn more about Pharaoh
Pharaoh

Discover the perfect 5G embedded antenna solution with Antenova

The integration of embedded 5G antennas is an intricate process that needs to be performed as early as possible. Fortunately, antenova offers an array of embedded 5G antennas so that you can find the perfect wireless solution for your device. We also offer an in-depth integration hub to guide you through the integration process for your device. If you have further integration or antenna questions, contact a member of our team today for additional support.

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