Experts Discussion: What Does 5G Mean to Materials and EDA Tools?


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Whether we’re ready for it or not, 5G technology is coming. While many companies are waiting to see how we’re all affected by this, PCB materials providers and EDA tool vendors have no such luxury. For this issue, we decided to speak with John Hendricks, market segment manager for wireless infrastructure at Rogers Corporation, and Ben Jordan, director of product and persona marketing for Altium, about the challenges related to 5G and what this means for PCB designers and fabricators.

Andy Shaughnessy: John, could you tell us a little bit about what you do at Rogers and your thoughts on 5G?

John Hendricks: Rogers Corporation manufactures high-frequency printed circuit board materials. I'm a market segment manager, and that means I have responsibility for the wireless infrastructure business, globally. It's my job to identify what we need to be doing to meet both current and future needs.

And 5G has some interesting challenges. If you look at it from the PCB material point of view, in the past there was not that much change as you went from 2G to 3G to 4G. Lots of other technologies developed very dramatically of course, but in the circuit board business, not a whole lot changed in terms of what was required from materials. And the simple reason for that was that, from a hardware point of view, there were just small differences in frequencies—700 megahertz, 900 megahertz, 1.8 up to 2.5, something like that. And a power amp still basically looked like a power amp, and an antenna still looked like an antenna.

5G is interesting because, as most people know, it’s split into two areas; a much bigger area, at least in the beginning, is the sub-six gigahertz market. And then you have the millimeter wave, which is 28 gigahertz. The millimeter wave presents some very dramatic changes to the material requirements because of the much higher frequency, so materials must be much lower loss. They have to be much thinner, much smoother copper.

Down at sub-six gigahertz, there's not so much of a dramatic change in the electrical requirements of the materials, but one of the things that is happening is, perhaps not necessarily in the very first iterations, but certainly in newer designs that we see coming out on the horizon, there's a lot more integration between the antennas and the power components and the transceivers, and going forward even more integration with the high-speed digital parts.

To read this entire article, which appeared in the May 2018 issue of Design007 Magazine, click here.

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