High-performance E-Band backhaul networks vital to achieving 5G levelling up.

17 May 2022

by Dan Rhodes, Business Development Director, Filtronic

The government plan for levelling up includes a target that, by 2030, the UK will have nationwide gigabit-capable broadband and 4G coverage, with 5G available for the majority of the population.

To achieve that goal, there needs to be significant investment upgrading wireless backhaul networks capable of handling vastly increased data flows. Wireless backhaul for mobile networks provide the hidden “data pipes” connecting cell towers to the core telecoms infrastructure. Without this essential ‘data plumbing’ in place, there’s no possibility of achieving the government’s 5G ambitions.

Building backhaul capacity 

Providing a mobile backhaul network with sufficient capacity for 5G requires a combination of fibre networks and high capacity wireless point-to-point links. This combination will be vital in levelling up digital connectivity across the UK, where data speeds in rural and northern parts of the UK suffer by comparison with the south-east and dense urban areas.

Getting 5G connectivity into rural areas poses particular challenges for mobile networks, due the distances involved and often hilly terrain. A solution for connecting remote areas to 5G may lie in high-altitude pseudo-satellites (HAPS). These are essentially cell towers in the sky, enabling user devices to connect directly to HAPS base stations at stratospheric altitudes of around 20km. These base stations are connected via wireless backhaul links into the core telecoms network.

E-band for 5G bandwidth

To achieve the bandwidth required for 5G backhaul networks, high-capacity mmWave connections are required – linking the core telecoms infrastructure to both terrestrial and HAPS-mounted cell towers. Within the mmWave spectrum, E-band (71-86GHz) is currently the only commercially available frequency band offering sufficient bandwidth available for dense 5G networks.

Specialists in mmWave technology 

Filtronic is a specialist in the design and manufacture of high-performance E-band subsystems for both traditional telecoms and critical communications networks. Our advanced transceiver technology has been developed over the past decade to provide the quality, performance and reliability required for 5G backhaul applications.

Our E-band technology has also been customised for use in HAPS backhaul networks, incorporating the higher power amplifiers necessary to transmit and receive signals over longer distances. The core technology offers the flexibility for customisation to meet the demands of application specific requirements. Filtronic has extensively field proven technology ready to support the expansion of 5G backhaul in the UK.

Design and manufacturing challenges  

At higher frequencies, the technical challenges for designing and manufacturing RF sub-systems are much greater. The components and circuit features required at high mmWave frequencies are significantly smaller than those in lower frequency systems, requiring extreme precision in manufacturing.

At Filtronic, we have been honing our mmWave design and manufacturing capabilities over the past decade. Crucially, we have developed our own core technology, including monolithic microwave integrated circuits (MMICs), and integrated filters and diplexers so that we can produce these advanced products cost effectively. What’s more, because we have full control over our own precision manufacturing facilities, we can achieve the critical tolerances required for intricate mmWave components. Our design teams work hand-in-hand with our production teams, enabling us to deliver high-performance mmWave components consistently and repeatedly – at scale.

Importantly, for the UK levelling up agenda, Filtronic is the only UK-based manufacturer of high-performance E-band transceivers for 5G backhaul networks.

Data growth demands constant innovation

Looking to the future, as demand for data grows exponentially, E-band itself is likely to become congested and the demand for data will continue to rise – meaning even greater bandwidth will be required. Transceiver technology will be needed to support expansion into W-band (92-114GHz) and even D-band (130-174GHz) – Filtronic is already advanced in developing solutions for these frequencies. By the time we reach 2030, 6G capability will be on the agenda. The drive to enable fast, uninterrupted connectivity to even more mobile and IoT devices will remain a major challenge for the telecoms industry. Filtronic is well placed to provide the mmWave sub-systems required to support universal high-speed connectivity across the UK.

To learn more about our mmWave capabilities click here

To talk to Filtronic about backhaul, mmWave or transceivers contact us today

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