milliBeam says its proprietary technology will make it possible to deploy 5G faster and in a more efficient way.
The company has received seed funding of $750,000 from Main Sequence, the deep tech VC fund set up by the CSIRO. It has been founded and is headed by Dr Venkata Gutta.
There are three kinds of 5G and milliBeam has taken aim at the high band. Low-band 5G is made up of sub-2 GHz frequencies, with peak speeds of as much as 350Mbps, upload speeds of 60Mbps and latency of around 30ms, according to Cradlepoint. The advantage is that the signals can get through obstacles and travel long distances.
Mid-band 5G is the spectrum that comprises frequencies between 2-7 GHz and is expected to reach speeds of up to 1.56Ghz. With a 5G standalone core, speeds of 350 Mbps can be reached, with latency ranging from 8 to 12 ms.
High-band 5G comprises frequencies in the millimetre spectrum (mmWave) - frequencies at or above 24 GHz. This is the best performing layer of the 5G spectrum with download speeds of up to 3Gbps.
On the downside, high-band 5G is mostly confined to line-of-sight transmission; it can be easily interrupted by weather, structural interference, and distance.
milliBeam’s proprietary LEFT-BEAM technology addresses challenges such as mmWave 5G coverage and high-power consumption, which arise from the limitations of semiconductor technologies at mmWave frequencies.
The company’s technology is a result of innovations in system and circuit architectures and integrated circuit design.
A statement from milliBeam said existing state-of-the-art beamformer ICs used a number of elements to transmit signals with varying phases to create a focused signal beam, aimed at user equipment.
This could improve signal range, but beamformers suffer from disadvantages such as high power consumption which limits efficiency, as well as limited radio output power, which reduces range.
Commonly available 5G beamformers have a transmit power of 100mW and consume many watts of battery power. This normally equates to efficiency below 3%. Taking receiver power consumption into account, overall efficiency is less than 2%.
The low transmit power limits signal range to 100 metres or less and indirectly drives up the cost of deployment in terms of the increased number of cells required.
milliBeam’s technology has been aimed at developing high-power and high-efficiency solutions, which increase coverage range and 5G system energy efficiency. The company hopes to boost radio signal range by a factor or 10 and increase energy efficiency to 25% and over in the next five years.
Dr Gutta told iTWire he was hopeful testing of the technology would be completed by the end of 2022.
As to deployment, he said he hoped that something would be in an actual product by mid-2023.
The immediate aim for Dr Gutta is telecommunications companies. Handset makers will also be approached, but there is likely to be competition from the bigger companies in the field.
"milliBeam is enabling large-scale global deployment of mmWave 5G by addressing the challenges of poor coverage, deployment and operational costs through LEFT-BEAM semiconductor chipset technology," he said.
"LEFT-BEAM delivers higher transmit power and high energy-efficiency to support mmWave 5G peak data rates over greater distances. The LEFT-BEAM technology will enable telcos to deploy mmWave 5G technology over scale in a cost-effective way and enhance global connectivity.
"Having just successfully closed a seed investment round of $750,000, we are working to complete our initial chip development, including testing by the end of this year, and focus towards sampling for customers in mid-2023.
"Over the next few months, our key priorities are to complete our first test chip, expand the engineering team, and to secure funding for further expansion. We’ll also be teaming up with partners and customers and will directly engage with the telcos and the handset manufacturers to take mmWave 5G to the next level in global mobile connectivity."
Main Sequence partner Mike Nicholls said: “As technology advances and people become more hooked to their phones, video game consoles, and computers, there’s been an increasing demand for faster network services. There is so much demand for 5G technology and equipment that the opportunity is ripe for disruptive companies and new entrants.
“milliBeam is well-positioned to take communications to the next phase. They have a very strong expert team, a critical market needs, a wealth of expertise in the field, support from investment partners who understand deep tech, and a very unique technology and approach.”
milliBeam has in its ranks experienced IC designers and test and verification engineers. The designers have had a successful track record in companies such as Samsung, AMD, Macom, Cambridge Silicon Radio, and Nitero and are experienced in designing Silicon IC solutions for mmWave beamformer applications.
The company has a number of offices across the country and plans to open a research and development centre in Sydney soon.