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Analysis of Millimeter Wave Technology Patent of Major Mobile Phone Chip Manufacturers

  • Categories:News Center
  • Time of issue:2021-01-29 14:19
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(Summary description)With the global commercialization of 5G, market demand for bandwidth and transmission rate continues to increase. Sub-6 frequency band spectrum resources are limited, while millimeter waves are easy to obtain clean spectrum resources. Therefore, millimeter wave has become another major development focus in the 5G era.

Analysis of Millimeter Wave Technology Patent of Major Mobile Phone Chip Manufacturers

(Summary description)With the global commercialization of 5G, market demand for bandwidth and transmission rate continues to increase. Sub-6 frequency band spectrum resources are limited, while millimeter waves are easy to obtain clean spectrum resources. Therefore, millimeter wave has become another major development focus in the 5G era.

  • Categories:News Center
  • Author: Su Weigang
  • Origin:
  • Time of issue:2021-01-29 14:19
  • Views:

With the global commercialization of 5G, market demand for bandwidth and transmission rate continues to increase. Sub-6 frequency band spectrum resources are limited, while millimeter waves are easy to obtain clean spectrum resources. Therefore, millimeter wave has become another major development focus in the 5G era.

3GPP uses the 6GHz frequency band as the boundary, and divides 5G into 2 large frequency bands. The first is "Sub-6" which ranges from 450MHz to 6GHz, and the "Sub-6" which belongs to the high frequency band and ranges from 24GHz to 52GHz. Millimeter Wave (Millimeter Wave)" frequency band.

As part of the Sub-6 industry technology is quite mature, it can be developed by extending the existing 4G technology, has a larger coverage area, and is easier to deploy base stations. Therefore, it has become the priority for operators around the world in the early stage of 5G development. Frequency band. However, most of the frequency bands covered by Sub-6 around the world have been occupied by other uses. Therefore, before the development of Sub-6 5G networks, governments of various countries usually have to perform spectrum preparation and migration to ensure sufficient and The complete Sub-6 frequency band is available for 5G networks.

With the global commercialization of 5G, the market’s demand for bandwidth and transmission rates continues to increase. The Sub-6 frequency band is occupied by a variety of different uses and has limited spectrum resources, while millimeter wave is a frequency band with a very low usage rate, which is easier to obtain. With clean spectrum resources, millimeter waves have become another major development focus in the 5G era.

Although millimeter waves have the advantages of large bandwidth and complete spectrum resources compared to Sub-6, millimeter waves are high-frequency and have short wavelengths in terms of physical characteristics, high penetration, low diffraction, and high signal directivity. Because the millimeter wave signal is easily attenuated by penetrating obstacles, the signal coverage is small, and a large number of base stations need to be deployed to fill the signal coverage. However, a large number of deployments will cause the difficulty and cost of deployment to increase. For this problem, operators, communication equipment manufacturers, and communication chip makers have all invested in technologies that improve the transmission distance and transmission efficiency of millimeter wave signals.

RF and antenna packaging

As far as 5G mobile phones are concerned, due to the need to support various 5G frequency bands, such as Sub-6, which has different frequency bands below 1GHz, 1.8GHz, 3.5GHz, and the support for millimeter wave and 4G, 5G mobile phones need more The number of antennas and the number of RF components. However, there is very little space to put a large number of RF components and antennas inside the mobile phone. Therefore, mobile phone chip manufacturers began to package the RF components and antennas together to produce integrated RF modules without the need to design RF on the PCB board. The circuit of the component, and then reduce the area required to solve this problem.

The current development direction is to encapsulate multiple micro-antennas used in millimeter wave communications, power amplifiers, filters, power management chips, transceivers, and other RF components into an integrated RF module through antenna packaging (Antenna in Package). group.

Phased array antenna

The length of the antenna is proportional to the wavelength of the electromagnetic wave, so the length of the millimeter wave antenna is very short, and because of the short antenna length, the electromagnetic signal energy that each antenna can receive is very low, and the signal attenuation and defects are more serious, and cause transmission The distance is short. To solve this problem, 5G high-frequency technology will use a phased array antenna (Phased Array Antenna), by using a large number of small antenna elements to design a high-signal directional antenna, so that the signal transmission distance can be extended.

Large-scale multiple input output

Multiple-Input Multiple-Output (MIMO) means that under the limited bandwidth of a single antenna, multiple antennas are used at the transmitting end to send signals independently, and multiple antennas are used to independently receive signals at the receiving end. After receiving and demodulating, the original signal content can be restored. By splitting the signal, transmitting it by different antennas, and combining it into the original content, the same antenna bandwidth can be transmitted by multiple antennas at the same time, which doubles the overall transmission bandwidth.

Due to the small size of millimeter wave antennas, more antennas can be put into mobile phones or base stations to become Massive MIMO. With the further increase in the number of antennas, it can produce higher than normal MIMO The overall network speed and increase the transmission capacity of the base station.


When electromagnetic waves send signals, they are scattered around. However, the receiving end only needs to receive the signal from a certain direction to complete the signal transmission. Therefore, the efficiency of transmitting the signal by scattering is poor. Because of the high signal attenuation rate of millimeter waves, if the signal is transmitted by scattering, its transmission efficiency will be even lower. Therefore, in the millimeter wave technology, it is considered how to integrate radio signals and transmit them to the receiving end in a specific direction in a directional manner, thereby improving the efficiency and transmission distance of radio signal transmission. This technology is beamforming (Beamforming). ).

Beamforming is to adjust the amplitude and phase of each antenna transceiver unit on the antenna array so that the antenna array superimposes the transmit and receive signals in a specific direction to generate signal gain; signals in other directions cancel each other out, thereby reducing interference. By enhancing directional signals and reducing interference signals in other directions, the transmission distance of millimeter-wave signals can be increased. However, this transmission method will make it difficult for users outside the beam direction to receive the signal. Therefore, beamforming technology also It involves techniques such as how to find each user most efficiently, locate its direction and transmit the best signal transmission beam. In addition, because the user may be in a mobile state, how to track the user's location and constantly switch the best signal beam to transmit the signal to the user is also the focus of beamforming technology.

Millimeter wave patent status

Among the top 20 patentee countries for millimeter wave technology, the United States ranks first, with 2,882 patents, accounting for 66%; Japan, with 308 patents, accounting for 7.1%; and Germany, Israel, and China, respectively, with 163 Items, 155 items and 128 items. Taiwan has 104 millimeter wave technology patent applications, ranking eighth in the world, and the main applicants are Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. and the Industrial Technology Research Institute. The top 10 countries in Europe for millimeter wave technology patent applications are only Germany and the United Kingdom.

Figure 1: Top 20 patent applicants for millimeter wave technology (Source: USPTO, Innography, compiled by MIC, June 2020)
The top three patentees for millimeter wave technology patent applications are: AT&T (6.6% of the total patents), Intel (3.5% of the total patents) and Qualcomm (3.3% of the total patents). From the perspective of the top 20 applicants, semiconductor companies, such as Intel, Qualcomm, Broadcom, Qorvo, NXP, Sony, and other chip or RF component manufacturers, are the main ones. Communication equipment factories such as Huawei, Samsung (the above are both chip factories and mobile phone brands) and Ericsson are also major investors in related technologies.

It is worth noting that Apple has always been rumored to independently develop baseband chips. Judging from the number of patents, it may represent that Apple has made progress in millimeter wave technology to a certain extent and acquired Intel's baseband chip division in July 2019. Later, it should obtain some patents for millimeter wave technology from Intel. It is expected that Apple will further increase the number and importance of millimeter wave technology patents. In addition, Raytheon, a military contractor that produces weapons and equipment such as missiles, fighter radars, and missile defense systems, is also the main applicant for millimeter wave technology patents, showing the fact that millimeter waves used to be dominated by military weapons in the past.

Based on the analysis of four major mobile phone chip manufacturers, Intel, Qualcomm, Huawei, and Samsung, more than half of their millimeter wave patents belong to the two major categories of "millimeter wave efficiency improvement technology" and "transmission mode and architecture", which are Intel 60%, Qualcomm 62%, Huawei 58%, Samsung 72%, and antenna and radio frequency patents account for about 30% of each manufacturer.

Patent layout battle

The patent layout of millimeter wave focuses on solving the problem of small transmission range. Technically, through the development of signal transmission, transmission structure, and transmission efficiency, the millimeter wave is more likely to be commercialized.

From the perspective of the distribution of major patent categories, the focus of the millimeter wave patent layout of various manufacturers is to solve the problem of the small transmission range of millimeter waves. Technically, they try to develop signal transmission methods, transmission architectures, and improve signal transmission efficiency. Waves are more likely to be commercialized; in addition, they are also invested in the development of millimeter-wave radio frequency components and antennas.

Figure 2: Millimeter wave antennas are small in size, so more antennas can be put into mobile phones or base stations to become large-scale multiple input and output. (Source: nokia . com ).
In terms of the two types of patents for millimeter wave transmission and efficiency improvement, Huawei and Samsung are not only chip makers, but also major base station equipment manufacturers. Therefore, some of the patent content mentions technologies used for base station signal transmission. ; Qualcomm uses chips for terminal equipment and small base stations as its main products, and most of its patents describe signal transmission technology for base station to terminal equipment; Intel has also withdrawn from the mobile device chip market due to non-base station equipment vendors, so The patent content does not specifically indicate that it is used for base stations or terminal equipment.

The patents on radio frequency, antenna, carrier aggregation and other projects also reflect the differences in products and markets between manufacturers. For example, Qualcomm is the first company to integrate and commercialize millimeter-wave radio frequency modules. Antenna and radio frequency patents are mostly radio frequency component integration and packaging technology. Samsung has launched integrated RF module products and has high-end packaging capabilities, so it also has many patents related to component integration and packaging. Huawei's mobile devices and base station equipment are mainly markets in Mainland China and Europe, and they are not actively promoting millimeter wave commercialization. Therefore, Huawei may invest less in the integration and packaging of millimeter wave radio frequency and antennas. Related patent projects It mostly involves a single radio frequency component. Since Intel has withdrawn from the mobile terminal device market, the relevant patents are more focused on the technology of notebook computer antennas and stick to its original computer market.


Although millimeter wave is the key word, it can still be found that Huawei and Samsung, two manufacturers with chips, base station equipment and terminal products, have patents related to terahertz technology. Since it is expected that communication technology will continue to develop towards higher frequencies in the future, it is not surprising that starting from millimeter wave technology, it is not surprising to invest in research and development of higher frequency terahertz technology, but some manufacturers have patents for millimeter wave plus terahertz. From the perspective of view, the development of higher frequency technology seems to be not only an expectation, but an ongoing one.


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