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If you talk to the Big Network providers – the AT&Ts and Vodafones of the world – you might think that 5G was already here. If you talk to your average smartphone RF Front-End (RFEE) engineer, he or she might tell you that 5G is a few years away.
To us engineers working on next-generation RFEEs, 5G won’t be real until we can hold it in our hands: use a smartphone to download 4K video content or use an augmented reality device with real-time streaming of content at Gigabit per second speeds.
One of the key pieces of the RFEE that is still missing for 5G is next-generation filter technologies. The miniaturization of filters were largely responsible for the leaps from 1G to 2G, 2G to 3G, and 3G to 4G. Filter technologies like SAW and FBAR made these leaps possible, and we’ll need another step-change in filter technology to enable 5G bands up to 6 GHz, and an even larger jump to get to the fabled mmWave bands – double digit GHz bands that will enable literally billions more devices to share 5G networks, with billions more bits per second to each device.