Radar inspired mobile phone antenna project

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With funding from Innovation Fund Denmark, the Range project – a collaboration between Aalborg University, Intel and Wispry – is looking develop mobile phone antennas inspired by radar technology.

Today, most mobile phones have antennas that point in all directions to pick up a signal. According to Professor Gert Frølund Pedersen, from Aalborg University’s Department of Electronic Systems, the best modern mobile phones ‘only’ lose about 90% of the signal that is in the air. If the speed is to be increased, antenna technology needs to be better, he says.

The solution, he claims, is to have more antennas pointing directly at the transmitter. “If you know what direction the signal is coming from, you have a huge advantage,” he says.

However, although you may know where the nearest transmission tower is, the challenge is that mobile phones are rarely pointing in the same direction for long periods of time. So Prof Pedersen has looked to radar technology. “In the same way that a radar antenna can ‘see’ in all directions, the mobile phone must also continually scan for the strongest signal that it can lock on to.”

According to Prof Pedersen, the problem can be solved by having many antennas in the phone that each look in a particular direction. “Whether 5G will have 16 or 64 antennas built in, we don’t know, but it will be of that order of magnitude. The more there are, the better. But they have to work together for a good signal in the right direction.”

The Range project – Reconfigurable Arrays for Next Generation Efficiency – is expected to last four years. Half of the project’s £5.8million budget is being supplied by Innovation Fund Denmark.