5G could arrive much more quickly and affordably with completely new antenna technology thanks to a recently published joint effort between industry leaders such as LG, SK Telecom, Keysight Technologies, Y.Tech, and Korea's Pohang University of Science and Technology.
The proposed tech, tested on a 28 GHz 5G Android platform, negates an ongoing challenge for mobile device OEMs in that it provides a new way to incorporate an antenna into a smartphone.
More directly, the research and testing centered around placing the clustered antenna needed for 5G in the display panel itself rather than competing with the 4G antenna array already found in mobile devices.
That addresses two distinct problems. The first of those is the challenge of finding room for a more dense group of 5G antennae inside of a smartphone platform that is already struggling to incorporate new components because of space limitations.
The second challenge addressed by the new Antenna-on-Display (AOD) concept technology is the need to have antennae that are clustered in specific orientations in order to pick up a stable flow of 5G's mmWave transmissions consistently.
By arranging and spreading the antenna in a "phased-array configuration" under the display, up to 88-percent transparency — good enough to seem invisible, the team says — can be achieved while enabling the correct orientation to be maintained.
5G devices already coming to market only tell a small part of the story
The result of challenges facing manufacturers isn't immediately obvious since there are already several who will begin rolling out devices well ahead of the network infrastructure being complete nationwide in any region. One common trait across each of the expected gadgets does betray where end users will notice the issue though. Chiefly, that's in the wallet or pocketbook.
5G devices that are set to land before 2019 is over share what could be referred to as an "extremely" high price point that arguably stems from both how new the next-gen networks are and how complicated the internal hardware is. Samsung's 5G Galaxy S10, when it launched in Korea for example, cost buyers as much as $1366. That premium can probably be expected across every first-generation 5G gadget as well.
Through its reduced complexity, that means the new AOD technology could ultimately help bring 5G to budget-friendly and mid-range smartphones more rapidly.
The big picture …and drawbacks?
As noted by the project's lead, Pohang University of Science and Technology Professor Wonbin Hong, the purpose of the new invention is to enable 5G to be incorporated into mobile devices without trade-offs. More acutely, the implication is that AOD can ensure ample room for the complex next-gen antenna arrays without losing access to another set of antenna that will be needed during the transition from 4G LTE and older connections to 5G.
That doesn't automatically mean there won't be trade-offs though. As shown in the images shared by the team, the on-display antenna technology does seem to require some additional space that could lead to bezels being increased or to less room being internally available.
Clarity could also become an issue for some users, following years of improved display panels setting high expectations for users at the upper reaches of the Android spectrum.
It remains to be seen how well the new display technology can be adapted to suit the needs of the market and which segments of the market take advantage of AOD for 5G.