Samsung revs beamforming for automotive mmWave 5G tech

As CES kicked off this week, Samsung touted progress towards equipping vehicles with millimeter wave 5G technology and called out array antenna beamforming.

This time last year at CES 2020 the electronics giant introduced the first 5G-capable telematics control units (TCU), alongside Harman and BMW.

The telematics control unit combines key automotive technologies and connects external networks to in-vehicle electronics systems for faster onboard data communication.

Since starting work in years prior and extensive testing to produce a viable circuit design, Samsung developed an Automotive mmWave 5G TCU which hasn’t been commercialized yet. It implemented mmWave into the 5G TCU using Qualcomm’s mmWave chipset.

Millimeter wave spectrum offers wider channels than most sub-6 GHz that’s been used for wireless, meaning more capacity to handle large amounts of data and super-fast speeds. Samsung turned attention to 5G mmWave, citing minimum data latency and the ability to cover multiple vehicles as to why the spectrum is prime for new in-vehicle experiences, as well as future autonomous driving.

“When it comes to providing large quantities of road information to the driver in real-time and implementing connected-car services, the ability of 5G mmWave to facilitate the transmission of large volumes of data at rapid speeds is crucial,” Samsung said in its announcement.

In a video describing the technology and applications, Wonsik Lee, EVP head of R&D Group for Samsung’s Automotive Electronics Business Team, cited road-safety applications like real-time updates on road conditions and unexpected accident warnings.

A short data round-trip is also key as cars look to leverage external communication as well, including infrastructure, pedestrians, or other vehicles (known as vehicle-to-everything or V2X technologies).

RELATED: FCC votes to open 5.9 GHz for Wi-Fi, C-V2X

On the flip side are known challenges of mmWave, namely signal loss, poor reach and easily blocked by objects. This is where array antenna beamforming comes in.

With array antenna beamforming, signals can be focused in a certain direction toward a specific receiving device at high strength, helping overcome mmWave challenges of interference and coverage.  According to Samsung, it means data can be sent and received with a stable, ultra-high speed connection as vehicles drive on the road.

It optimized beamforming during field tests using real vehicles, which included energy consumption and heat radiation tests to ensure the TCU could still function in very hot or cold temperatures.

Although widely known as an electronics giant, Samsung has also been making inroads as a telecom infrastructure vendor – including its home market of South Korea, as well as the U.S., Canada, and Japan, among others. 

The vendor called out its mmWave base station that has 1,024 antenna elements to enable precise beamforming and supports all mmWave frequencies. The 5G Compact Macro can connect to cars driving as fast as 200 km/hour (or around 125 mph).

In the U.S. Verizon has been the carrier most focused on millimeter wave, a strategy it's become accustomed to defending (in part because of mmWave's challenges mentioned above).

RELATED: Verizon extends 5G MEC to two more cities, tests C-V2X and XR applications

For entertainment purposes, Samsung is looking to mmWave to help deliver advanced in-car experiences with HD video streaming, as well as games, video conference calls, live concerts and events. Drivers could also download HD map data while driving.

“Samsung’s Automotive mmWave 5G TCU technology will enable communication capabilities to help make driving safer, more convenient and more enjoyable,” Lee stated.

That comes as Samsung unveiled its 5G-equipped “2021 Digital Cockpit” – positioned as a view into what could be possible with vehicle technology. This year’s focus envisions cars that essentially transform from transportation-only to what could be a mobile office, entertainment hub, or place to relax. A video on that can be found here.