RF Integration Challenges
for Standalone 5G Adaptation

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The innovation of every new piece of technology or the postulation of every new idea comes with a unique and convoluted array of problems and challenges. The development of the new generation of telecommunications network service, that is the 5G NR (new radio) software and technology, is no different.

Every ten years or so since the 1980s have seen a new generation of technology standards for broadband cellular networks. After 4G LTE was deployed in December 2009 and has hence become ubiquitous, 5G NR is its brand new successor. In the making since 2015, it has been developed and maintained by 3GPP (3rd Generation Partnership Project).

As 5G NR continues to pick up the pace and continues to be adopted by the latest generation of smartphones, it faces a plethora of roadblocks. For its standalone adaptation, 5G needs to overcome some interesting challenges.


Add to this the already complex nature of the technology and the multi-dimensional issues 5G NR needs to solve, and you have a daunting problem ahead. But as they say, you can cut all the flowers, but you cannot keep Spring from coming.

One of the major challenges for standalone 5G adaptation is the rising bill of materials (BOM). With the wide range of bandwidth and radio frequencies used in cellular devices today, the RF (radio frequency) front-end designs are becoming increasingly complex and costly. Engineers need to provide a high quality of experience (QoE) while also capping the price of these technologies.

Moreover, the handicap of the CoVID-19 pandemic increased the cost of raw materials and labour and essentially posed unprecedented challenges to the development of 5G NR software. Although this is a challenge that nearly every industry has faced in the past couple of years, it is still a noteworthy problem.

The high network capacity, increased downlink and uplink speeds and higher bandwidth are predicted to compete with existing internet service providers (ISPs), like cable internet providers and lead to novel applications of the Internet of Things (IoT). This will likely increase its consumer base, and 5G NR needs to be capable of managing the consequential high volume load.

Another noteworthy challenge to 5G NR is the usage of millimetre waves (MMWs) or FR2 (frequency range 2). These waves range from 24.25 GHz to 52.6 GHz and have amplitudes from ten to one millimetre(s). Several network operators use these waves, although they have a major downfall- they have shorter ranges, and hence have geographical limitations. Furthermore, millimetre waves cannot permeate through concrete walls efficiently. These limitations force MMWs to a narrow geographical area of service, or cell. To combat this problem, plans are to use these cells in densely populated urban settings or to deploy several small cells.

An argument against 5G NR technology of a ‘green’ origin came up around 2019; people feared that 5G NR and the radio frequencies used by the technology would harm bees, a vital player in our ecosystem, whose existence and numbers are already threatened by climate change.

In today’s world where issues like climate change, sustainability and ecological imbalance are rife, upcoming innovations need to make necessary contributions to minimise the harm caused to the environment. Battery life plays a key role in efficient wireless communication. Efficient power usage is also an important selling point for the new line of smartphones, and 5G cannot afford to cut corners here. Moreover, stable power usage helps mobile communication stay practical. Using envelope circuit mechanisms has minimised power wastage (in the form of device heating), making the technology greener.

The advent of 5G NR marks a new dawn in the space of information and communication technology. With its wide-reaching applications, 5G seems to be a technology that is ready to take on the demands of a post-CoVID world with multi-dimensional demands. New innovations are taking place every day. 5G is teeming with possibilities. Are the steps taken to overcome the challenges of 5G NR enough? Only time will tell.