This tiny piece of hardware could make better 5G a reality

Resonant says its new radio frequency filter has the tech to make wider applications possible.

5G (5th generation) communication technology concept. Smart city. Telecommunication.

Image: metamorworks, Getty Images/iStockphoto

5G has been reality for some time now, but according to Resonant, the reality of 5G has been significantly less exciting than the hype that led up to its release. Resonant said it has the tech to make wider applications of 5G possible in the form of a device no larger than a single grain of rice.

Called XBAR, it's a new form of radio frequency filter that Resonant said is the first to deliver the three necessary elements for truly successful 5G: Filtration of RF noise at high frequencies, across a wide band, and an ability to handle high-powered RF signals that counter high-frequency signal attenuation.

RF filters are nothing new: They've been a part of the technological world for as long as radio frequencies have been used to transmit data, and help devices filter out unwanted noise in favor of the signals they actually want. In today's cell signal-rich, IoT, smart device world RF signals are everywhere, and they easily collide to make life difficult for the very people the devices are supposed to benefit.

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As the world continues to roll out new RF-transmitting and receiving technologies and devices, Resonant said, signal filtering problems will only proliferate. More cellular and Wi-Fi bands are being added, carrier aggregation is eating up more and more frequencies, and multiple input/multiple output (MIMO) only further spreads the amount of bandwidth being used to receive a signal. 

Bulk acoustic wave (BAW) is the standard for 4G LTE devices, and while it works well for those applications, adapting to 5G is a significant challenge, Resonant said. BAW filters can only handle 3%-5% of noise at up to 2.7GHz, rendering them essentially useless for frequencies beyond that. 

The XBAR filter, on the other hand, is capable of providing filtering in the 3-6GHz range, as well as for millimeter wave technology up to 28GHz. Resonant said it's tested the XBAR at frequencies of up to 38GHz, meaning it's capable of being used into the future as more bands are opened and tech advances beyond current 5G capabilities. Resonant said it expects the XBAR to improve 5G data rates by more than 20%.

This isn't just another fly-by-night startup concept, either: Resonant premiered its first XBAR chip at Mobile World Congress 2019, and in the last quarter of 2020 alone saw 200% year-over-year growth in shipment volumes. 

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Resonant also joined the Wi-Fi alliance in January 2020, so expect XBAR to be a part of forthcoming Wi-Fi 6 and 6E hardware as well.

"Resonant's XBAR RF filter technology is optimized for the wide bandwidths, high frequencies, low loss, and high rejection required for the Wi-Fi industry to fully realize the capacity and speeds of Wi-Fi 6E – the strength of which has been validated through our strategic partnerships with leading RF filter manufacturers," said Resonant CEO George Holmes.

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