Nokia Bell Labs Leverages End-to-End Keysight Ecosystem to Develop W-Band Phased-Array System with First-Pass Success

Bringing complex wireless communications to market takes years of research and development. Advanced research into high-frequency millimeter-wave (mmWave) technologies is driving the 5G revolution. Exploration of transceiver technologies for different frequency bands in the wireless spectrum leads to innovations for point-to-point and point-to-multipoint network solutions.

Bell Labs parent Nokia is no stranger to the kind of bleeding-edge work required to make 5G a reality and pave the way for 6G. Engineers in the mmWave Application Specific Integrated Circuit (ASIC) Research Group at Nokia Bell Labs recently completed another milestone in their near-decade-long study of W-band (75–110 GHz) phased-array systems. Nokia Bell Labs’ projects are leading the way to significant cost reduction, which is necessary for commercial adoption of these high-bandwidth wireless system implementations.

The mmWave ASIC research group created a complex W-band system comprising a 24-element phased-array radio-frequency integrated circuit (RFIC) co-designed and assembled onto a printed circuit board (PCB) interposer to produce a scalable phased-array tile. The engineers combined 16 tiles onto a carrier PCB to create a 384-element (256 Tx / 128 Rx) phased-array system with built-in self-alignment and self-test.

The system is one of the most highly integrated mmWave RFIC phased arrays (Figure 1). At W-band frequencies, higher insertion losses make RF distribution increasingly challenging to implement on conventional substrate materials. Nokia Bell Labs’ tiled architecture approach is necessary for creating phased arrays with hundreds of active elements with flexibility in system design based on specific link budgets.

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