City skyline with tall buildings implying network connectivity

3M in 5G

5G’s promise of deeper, more reliable connectivity and technology that will revolutionize medicine, automotive, electronics, and other industries is within reach. Once the 5G infrastructure is built out, the experiences that mankind would be able to have will be mind-boggling. Faster movie downloads on our phones are just the beginning- we’re talking real-time critical connections that will expand the internet of things and allow in-the-moment, critical operations – think of automated cars or doctors performing sensitive surgeries from hundreds of miles away via live feed.

But building out a fully functioning network is going to take significant infrastructure not to mention time. Additionally, there are several challenges to building out this 5G network infrastructure.

A Closer Look At 5G Infrastructure Challenges

As exciting as it may sound, there are challenges to building out the 5G network infrastructure:

  • Components in 5G units are more tightly packed and can generate a lot of heat. That heat needs to be conducted away from the source (critical components).
  • Increased 5G frequencies have an undesirable effect on signal integrity. This means there could be distortion in the electrical signal. So, signal-integrity problems should be addressed early when designing these high-performance products.

How is 3M helping networks meet these 5G challenges?

3M technology innovations from across 14 core disciplines have helped provide solutions to some of these 5G challenges.  For example, we are repurposing longtime expertise in controlling electromagnetic interference (EMI) for electronics to aid signal strength and integrity. Currently, four new products being developed are initially focused on infrastructure design challenges and signal integrity:

  • Beam control (increased area coverage)
    • by putting a 3M™ coating over the antenna array, our product can help networks access more of the area and improve coverage.
  • mmWave hybrid absorber (design challenge and signal integrity)
    • 5G infrastructure devices are more compact, with improved functionality, leading to increased heat and noise. Our hybrid absorber helps networks with their EMI control and heat removal.
    • This absorber can be utilized in various applications, a couple of examples being RF/mmWave infrastructure components and modules, optical transceivers, internal cavities, and heat sink coupling (to help reduce EMI issues).
  • 3M™ PIM Reduction Kit 1000 (signal integrity)
    • 3M has a very simple solution to reduce external passive intermodulation (PIM) issues. We have a PIM kit with weatherproofing tapes and a magnetic absorber for PIM mitigation to help maintain network performance.
  • Transparent antenna: (inconspicuous 5G solution)
    • Stadiums, restaurants and other venues don’t want antennae destroying their ambiance. 3M™ Transparent Conductor Film is a thin transparent conductive film that utilizes proprietary 3M technology that provides networks with high power, high current, low surface resistivity, low PIM transparent antenna designs. This film is made specifically for antenna designers to create inconspicuous antenna products for indoors and outdoors applications.

So, what’s the approximate timeline for us to be able to help networks develop effective infrastructure?

Even the industry experts have various takes on this most frequently asked question, but most of them tend to agree that consumers and enterprises will enjoy the full benefits of this new technology within 5 years, while critical applications like autonomous driving or remote surgery will need more time.