Rethinking The Switches That Power The 5G Network

May 16, 2023

Forbes —May 16, 2023

Russ Garcia is CEO of Menlo Micro. He has more than 30 years of experience in the electronic systems and semiconductor industries.

The 5G world is here. Major players in every market have begun the path forward in the U.S., Europe and Asia. Even after a rocky start with customers shaken by unfounded theories of the health effects of 5G signal, recent data from PwC indicates that the public is more ready than ever for a faster and more reliable network. Now, the challenge is building it.

It begins where the signal does—with wireless infrastructure. Reaching the potential that 5G carriers have promised will require a hard rethinking of the components we as an industry are putting into the base stations and antennas that manage and distribute ultra-wideband networks to billions of people. That means ensuring signal integrity, minimizing interruptions and enhancing RF performance, all while reducing energy consumption, physical footprint and cost.

These have been the key attributes of the critical infrastructure that have met all our wireless data needs for the first four generations. Looking ahead, the industry must continue to meet the needs of legacy 4G systems that still power billions of smartphones while adding the new capabilities we expect from 5G systems.

There is no doubt the industry has made strides, but we must reach further. As 5G reaches more of our world and better systems are implemented, it will be ever more critical to deploy the most reliable networks that also bring down the enormous costs of powering our global communications. Challenges remain along the way, but the promise of a powerful, efficient and global 5G network vastly outweighs the barriers.

Power Consumption

More data means more energy consumption. While 5G enables a single unit of data to be transmitted using far less energy than 4G, it also enables exponentially more data to be transmitted—a high volume of data requires up to three times more than 4G by some estimates. It is one of the greatest challenges that we face as an industry, and there is no shortage of reasons to be interested in bringing energy consumption down, the most critical of which are volatile energy costs, ESG commitments to shareholders and consumers, and long-term commitments to the climate.

To drive down costs and meet climate goals, the key to 5G infrastructure lies in the switches and base stations that power the network. Companies should begin discussing ways to exchange the bulky, unreliable and power-hungry mechanical switching devices and the energy-leaking solid-state switches of previous generations for modern stations with the battery capacity, heat dissipation and power distribution capabilities that meet the needs of a new network.

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