Beam steerable array antenna for mm-wave communication networks (STEERCOMM)

Massive access by society to new broadband communications systems in the millimeter-wave band seems to be an imminent reality. However, there are still some technological barriers to overcome from the antenna point of view. The development of low-cost mobile terminals for Ka-band satellite communications, for example, is one of the most complex challenges for those working in the telecommunications sector. In particular, the ability to reliably control beam steering while keeping the antenna fixed is one of the great challenges of today’s technology. This feature has a very important impact on the antenna profile and can really make a difference compared to existing terminals, especially in the aeronautical sector.

Since the antenna is considered a key enabling technology for the envisioned industrial sector, the main objective of this project focuses on demonstrating that the mechanical phase shifter can indeed be operational in an antenna with the size and specifications associated with SATCOM applications, and in general with new millimeter band communications systems. This full-scale evaluation is of vital importance. Some specifications, such as bandwidth, sweep range and polarization purity, are highly dependent on antenna size. A larger size of the internal feed network is more difficult to design and limits the bandwidth. In addition, coupling between radiating elements in the array aperture, especially for scan angles close to the horizon line, quickly spoils the radiation pattern and beam pointing.

The manufacturing cost of the radiating subsystem is another key factor in developing an easily industrializable product. In this project, alternative guiding technologies to the one used in the original prototype are studied in order to reduce costs. The size occupied by the phase-shifting structure is also another feature to be improved in order to achieve a competitive prototype. The final goal of this project is the experimental demonstration of the concept by means of a functional prototype and the dissemination and commercialization of the results among the sectors of interest.

Funding: Grant PDC2022-133811-C21 funded by Agencia Estatal de Investigación (MCIN/AEI/10.13039/501100011033) and by European Union NextGenerationEU/PRTR.

Duration: 2022-2024