Transparent Antennas For 5G and Beyond

October 4, 2022

The rapid rise of IoT and 5G fuels need for a new class of "hide-in-plain-sight" antennas.

Antennas are the cogs in the massive 5G networks — and the growth figures prove it. The global 5G antenna market is estimated to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 54.7% during the forecast 2020-2027 period, reaching $8 billion by 2027, compared to $280 million just two years ago. As an engineer comments in CNET, “This is the biggest infrastructure project after the interstate highway system.”

But the massive demand for antennas has also raised questions about the limitations of traditional antenna technology. To meet future needs, investors are eyeing next-generation antenna technology poised to transform the idea of antenna capabilities.

To get a better sense of current demand, let’s look at the rapidly growing systems and applications that can’t do without highly efficient antennas.

IoT grows across all verticals

From making the list of Gartner’s “new emerging technologies” in 2011 to an estimated 13 billion active connected devices today — the Internet of Things (IoT) has lived up to the early buzz. And the skyrocketing growth is projected to continue across all verticals.

By 2030, the number of IoT devices is expected to hit 29.4 billion, Statista reports. Broken down by industry, the consumer segment will, just as now, remain in the lead, accounting for around 60% of total devices. In just eight years, the use case distribution of devices is projected as follows:

  • 17 billion — internet and media devices, such as smartphones
  • 8 billion — major industries such as electricity, gas, water supply, transportation
  • 1 billion — autonomous vehicles, IT infrastructure, asset tracking, smart grid

5G mobile subscriptions rising fast

The explosive growth of IoT goes hand in hand with the rapid build out of 5G. In fact, 5G is scaling faster than any other mobile technology generation, according to the new Ericsson Mobility Report. 5G mobile subscriptions are expected to hit 4.4 billion globally in 2027, up from a projected 1 billion by the end of 2022. At the same time, the 5G subscription penetration in North America will reach 90%.

Need for line-of-sight connections drives antenna demand

Along with 5G comes, as we mentioned earlier, the need for more antennas that enable
networks to beam ultrafast data to a lot more users with high precision and little latency. Aside from vast data capacity, the higher frequencies bring shorter wavelengths that are less likely than 4G signals to bend around buildings and obstacles than 4G signals.

These super-high frequencies consequently require a much greater number of antennas for 5G technology to properly function. A densely populated area that previously saw 100 antennas may now need 5,000 to 20,000 antennas to create fast line-of-sight connections to the receiving devices. While the higher frequency/lower wavelength means 5G antennas can be much smaller while providing precise directional control, traditional antennas come with many limitations.

Limitations of non-transparent antennas

For example, conventional designs use advanced ceramics based on raw materials such as barium carbonate and silicon dioxide. But while they meet certain Key Performance Indicators, they do not address KPIs that have increasingly become highly attractive to antenna designers and that speak to the material’s ability to be “hidden in plain sight”: transparency, haze, and flexibility.

Transparency removes the design barriers tied to traditional materials. While antennas made out of visible materials can only be placed in certain locations where they do not obstruct views or cause visual blight, transparent antennas come with no such constraints. Flexibility further expands opportunities for placement and design, allowing product designers to easily shape antennas in accordance with the demands of the surrounding environment. As we’ll explain below, the use of carbon nanotubes (CNT) in antenna design creates a new type of antenna free from the boundaries that limit innovation.

Transparent antennas bring transformative impact

Let’s take a closer look at transparent antennas. By design, transparent antennas enable users to leverage previously inaccessible real estate. When you can’t see the antenna, other constraints disappear. If the most optimal location is a window, nothing prevents you from using it. The combination of high performance and transparency solves one of the most pressing challenges of the 5G era — how to seamlessly integrate antennas into our everyday environments.

Pioneering the use of CNTs, CHASM delivers a breakthrough in transparency design. The AgeNT transparent flexible printed circuit (FPC) antennas overcome a fundamental challenge to fully implementing 5G, smart cities, and autonomous vehicles.

This new class of antennas can not only hide in plain sight, on windows and displays; they can also be molded to blend in with 3D-shaped architectural elements — without compromising performance. Their peel-and-stick quality further expands their use, enabling application on everything from vehicle lights and windshields to routers and even over satellite solar cells.

Final word on antennas for 5G

Transparent antennas are designed to meet the demands of next-generation technology. Versatile and flexible, they deliver exceptional connectivity, while remaining invisible. Consider them fuel for the future.

Do you have questions for us about AgeNT™ or wonder how our pioneering use of CNTs could benefit your products? Contact us today. We are here to help.


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