Wireless telecommunications have redefined human interaction, enabling individuals to reach each other from practically anywhere on the planet. This is most often facilitated using mobile devices which transmit electromagnetic frequencies on a range of 2–8 GHz. We are currently in a transitional phase between the fourth and fifth generations of wireless devices (4G and 5G), with 5G system architectures gradually being rolled out in urban centres around the world.
5G networks offer much lower latencies and vastly higher data rates than was ever conceivable using 4G technology. Yet these enhanced performance qualities pose unique engineering challenges, such as how to combat signal attenuation. A critical challenge for 5G network architectures is developing dielectric materials which are compatible with their higher operating frequencies.
The era of 5G telecommunications promises to offer faster, higher frequency communications than ever before, using millimetre wave (>10GHz) frequencies. Although the benefits of using high-band waves far outweigh the cons, the have a lower range and poor propagation qualities compared with 4G frameworks, and are subsequently more prone to signal loss. Hence the importance of high-performance dielectric materials.
Signal loss covers a range of phenomena, including decay over long ranges and attenuation by dense or conductive media Dielectric insulation can combat the issue of close-range signal loss such as attenuation within telecoms arrays themselves. Manufacturers subsequently aim to optimise 5G arrays using ultra-low loss dielectrics to maximise the amplitude of signals across networks.
The dielectric materials used for printed circuit boards (PCBs) in high frequency applications serve a range of functions, primarily insulating the conductors at the operating voltage. A critical function specifically in the context of 5G applications is the ability to assist with the control the transfer of energy throughout the circuit. Dielectric materials with a tightly-controlled dielectric constant and low dielectric losses over a wide range of atmospheric conditions enable high-efficiency transfers of energy throughout circuitry, translating to low losses in various conditions.
Flexible printed circuits (FPCs) and conventional PCBs are extensively utilised in 5G arrays and thus represent a potential point of attenuation. Encapsulation films may compromise high-speed networks by interfering with radiofrequencies, contributing to immediate signal decay. Electrical grade fluoropolymers and polyimide films with high dielectric strengths can be deployed as dielectric insulation for 5G FPCs and PCBs, providing ultra-low losses plus all the conventional performance characteristics that would be expected.
Traditional dielectric materials have acceptable dielectric properties for conventional telecoms applications, where the main operating frequencies are within the megahertz (MHz) range. However, as we enter the era of 5G and millimetre waves, these materials begin to suffer from significant dielectric losses. High-performance dielectrics can mitigate conductor losses at high frequencies across a broad temperature range, and when exposed to high humidity levels. This translates to superior performance in real-world applications such as 5G base station arrays.
Specialised heat sealable composites can also be used for cable encapsulation, providing a reliable dielectric insulation for wiring used throughout 5G system architectures.
Saint-Gobain Specialty Films is a world-leading manufacturer of high-performance dielectric insulation for the world’s most advanced telecommunications applications. We offer a suite of ultra-thin high-performance films which can serve as dielectric insulation in compact 5G arrays. If you would like to learn more about the products we offer for dielectric insulation, contact a member of the team today.