Future focus: new possibilities for RF communications

23 January 2023

by Walter Magiera, Chief Commercial Officer, Filtronic

Reliable access to high-speed, high-volume data communications has the potential to transform many industries and facilitate powerful new applications. These opportunities rely on the continued development of technologies to transmit, receive, and condition radio waves at higher frequencies, alongside the licensing of higher frequency bandwidths to accommodate huge increases in data traffic.

As technology evolves and new frequencies are approved for use, we examine some of the trends and opportunities for industries and applications in the years ahead.

– Space: commoditising satellite production  

To support the rise of mega constellations of low earth orbit (LEO) satellites, RF device manufacturers are developing “off-the-shelf” space-capable high-power products aiming to improve the commercial viability of small satellite manufacture and deployment. The exponential growth in data traffic also means that space communications will need to move further up the frequency band, to E-band (71-76GHz / 81-86GHz) where there is an abundance of bandwidth and technology to support its’ use.

– Telecoms: make space for data

To manage forecasted data traffic, millimetre wave (mmWave) bands at the higher end of the frequency spectrum will need to be licensed for use by telecoms. The semiconductor processes and RF technologies required for W-band (92-115GHz) are well advanced – and will be ready by the time licences are granted. Work is underway to solve the fundamental challenges associated with D-band (138-174GHz), which offers much higher data rates, but requires significant changes to device architecture and advanced device packaging techniques.

– Defence: securing critical communications 

In defence applications, unreliable or interrupted signals caused by congested frequency bands could cost lives. Moving up to higher frequency bands not only offers higher data rates, but also provides more directional signals that are harder to intercept. Alongside this, there is a push towards more digital signal processing in the radar signal chain. New technologies in the pipeline include ultrawide band (UWB) tuneable filters, operating across a broad spectrum of frequencies, which will be used to capture highly accurate spatial and directional data. 

– Trackside-to-train: data on the move

The quest to provide reliable Wi-Fi on trains continues, and the UK has set targets for on-train data speeds. Creating high-data wireless environments on vehicles travelling at high speed poses significant technology challenges. Filtronic has developed a number of demonstration transceivers, which are now being trialled worldwide. These are successfully delivering E-band links to trains and could be commercially available in the next few years.

– High-frequency trading: gaining the competitive edge    

High-performance private wireless networks are starting to be used to improve the competitiveness of high-frequency trading. Wireless point-to-point radio links can transmit signals milliseconds faster than fibre-optic cables. In such high-frequency trading where decisions are made by machine learning, the ability to make decisions a fraction of a second faster than the competition delivers a real competitive advantage.

– Quantum computing: solving complex challenges

The microwave circuits in quantum computers operate at superconducting temperatures, and are particularly sensitive to electromagnetic interference. Filtronic has developed advanced microwave filters to overcome this critical problem. RF technologies offer further potential to solve some of the unique challenges associated with quantum computing.

– Remote surgery: enabling precision operations 

It’s now possible for surgical procedures to be carried out by specialist surgeons remotely – potentially enabling top surgeons to operate on patients in areas where local expertise is not available. Carrying out such precise procedures remotely requires ultra-reliable data connections with extremely low latency (lag) – which could be made possible in the near future by the transition to higher-frequency mmWave bands.

– Autonomous vehicles: unlocking future mobility

Driverless car technology is another advancement requiring extremely reliable, uninterrupted signals with low latency. Delivering this capability across road systems requires a dense network of transmit and receive functions, ideally at mmWave frequencies. Such reliable data connectivity could also be used for intelligent traffic light controls and other smart traffic-management solutions.

The future for RF technology

In all industries and applications, there is a hunger for more and faster data – which means moving signals higher up the frequency spectrum into the uncongested mmWave bands. As you move up the frequency spectrum, transmit and receive components become smaller and devices become more complex and integrated. Thermal management becomes an issue, and there is a need to increase power. All of this presents considerable challenges for advanced RF device designers and manufacturers.

At Filtronic, we enable the future of RF, microwave and mmWave communication, striving to optimise the size, weight and power of transceivers, power amplifiers, filters, combiners and other devices. We are leading the way in anticipating trends and developing the products required to unlock the future possibilities of high-frequency RF applications.

If you have a novel application or process that relies on high-speed, low-latency data communications, the RF specialists at Filtronic can offer the expertise and advice you need.

Find out more about Filtronic’s capabilities:

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