With a long history in technologies like radio frequency and microwave communications, Analog Devices has been a key player in the rollout of each previous generation of wireless. From 1G up through the present day, it has developed crucial hardware enabling increasingly high-speed data conversion and communication that are critical to not just the deployment of new communications networks, but also the test equipment needed to prove out the new levels of performance.
“We’re not just developing components. We’re really trying to solve an entire system-based problem,” says Joe Barry, vice president of communications at Analog Devices. “We have a level of system architecture expertise coupled with a really, really strong portfolio of technology, which allows us to address challenging problems in a very dramatic way.”
The company has applied its experience toward the unique demands of 5G network technology, creating an entirely new communications architecture in the form of a software-defined transceiver. Originally developed for 4G, this technology integrates the complex, even unwieldy signal chain into a single microchip. By doing so, the challenges of size, power and cost in building 5G cell sites—all key practical barriers to adoption—become substantially more manageable.
“We’re using essentially the same physical spaces in these towers, but getting more bits per unit of energy on an order of magnitude greater than we did in 4G. So we need to deploy some very sophisticated radio antenna processing techniques,” says Vincent Roche, president and CEO of Analog Devices. “The next phase of 5G will bring some form of edge-based cloud systems to be able to do this dynamic provisioning of services for different types of businesses. So new business models are likely to emerge in areas like Industry 4.0, where 5G could become the bedrock of connectivity in mission-critical factory automation.”