Beamforming

Beamforming (spatial filtering) is a huge part of Fifth Generation wireless technology. Beamforming is basically using multiple antennas and varying the phase and amplitude of the inputs to these antennas. The result is a directed beam in a specific direction. This is a great method of preventing interference by focusing the energy of the antennas. Constructive and Destructive interference is used to channel the energy and increase the antennas’ directivity. The receiver receives the multitude of waves and depending on the receiver’s location will determine whether there is mostly constructive or destructive interference. Beamforming is not only used in RF wireless communication but also in Acoustics and Sonar.

An important concept to know is that placing multiple radiating elements (antennas) together increases the directivity of the radiation pattern. Putting two antennas side by side, creating a main lobe with a 3dB gain going forward. With four radiating elements, this becomes 6dB (quadruple gain). Feeding all of the elements with the same signal means that the elements are still one single antenna, but with more forward gain. The major issue here is that you only benefit from this in one single stationary direction unless the beam can be moved. This is where feeding the antennas with different phases and amplitudes comes in. The number of antennas becomes equal to the number of input signals. Having more separate antennas (and more input signals) creates a more directed antenna pattern. Spatial multiplexing can also be implemented to service multiple users wirelessly by utilizing space multiple times over.

Using electronic phase shifters at the input of the antennas can decrease cost of driving the elements quite a bit. This is known as a phased array and can steer the beam pattern as necessary but can only point in one direction at a time.

phased array

 

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