Agile multi-beam front-end for 5G mm-wave measurements

The 5th generation new radio (5G NR) standards create both enormous challenges and potential to address the spatio-spectral-temporal agility of wireless transmission. In the framework of a research unit at TU Ilmenau, various concepts were studied, including both approaches toward integrated circuits and distributed receiver front-ends (FEs). We report here on the latter approach, aiming at the proof-of-principle of the constituting FEs suitable for later modular extension. A millimeter-wave agile multi-beam FE with an integrated 4 by 1 antenna array for 5G wireless communications was designed, manufactured, and verified by measurements. The polarization is continuously electronically adjustable and the directions of signal reception are steerable by setting digital phase shifters. On purpose, these functions were realized by analog circuits, and digital signal processing was not applied. The agile polarization is created inside the analog, real-time capable FE in a novel manner and any external circuitry is omitted. The microstrip patch antenna array integrated into this module necessitated elaborate measurements within the scope of FE characterization, as the analog circuit and antenna form a single entity and cannot be assessed separately. Link measurements with broadband signals were successfully performed and analyzed in detail to determine the error vector magnitude contributions of the FE.


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