In 2019 as 5G systems and devices have begun rolling out around the globe, Millimeter Wave technology is one of the key technologies behind 5G. The technology allows the superfast speeds of 5G but can travel only short distances and has trouble with impediments like trees or walls. Qualcomm had worked on technology to solve those problems for phones this year to run on millimeter wave networks from Verizon and AT&T.
Apple is preparing to release a 5G iPhone in 2020 using Millimeter Wave antennas. Patently Apple was first to discover a next-gen Millimeter Wave Yagi Antenna patent for the iPhone back in August 2017. Since that time we’ve posted a minimum of 4 patent reports on this subject matter (01, 02, 03 & 04)
Today the US Patent & Trademark Office published another patent application from Apple that relates to Millimeter Wave communications and antennas.
Apple describes the challenge and solutions for millimeter wave technology. Apple notes that it may be desirable to support wireless communications in millimeter wave communications bands. Millimeter wave communications, which are sometimes referred to as extremely high frequency (EHF) communications, involve communications at frequencies of about 10-400 GHz. Operation at these frequencies may support high bandwidths, but may raise significant challenges.
For example, millimeter wave communications are typically line-of-sight communications and can be characterized by substantial attenuation during signal propagation. Additional challenges arise when attempting to place millimeter wave antennas within electronic devices. Housing structures and other components in an electronic device can adversely affect antenna performance. If care is not taken, components such as metal housing components can prevent antennas from performing effectively.
It would therefore be desirable to be able to provide electronic devices with improved wireless communications circuitry such as communications circuitry that supports millimeter wave communications.
Apple iDevices with Millimeter Wave Antennas and Metal Housings
Apple’s invention covers an electronic device such as an iPhone provided with wireless circuitry. The wireless circuitry may include one or more antennas. The antennas may include millimeter wave antenna arrays.
Non-millimeter-wave antennas such as cellular telephone antennas may have conductive structures separated by a dielectric gap. In a device with a metal housing, a plastic-filled slot or other plastic-filled opening in the metal housing may be associated with the dielectric gap.
The non-millimeter-wave antennas may be slot antennas, inverted-F antennas, or other antennas. The conductive structures for the non-millimeter-wave antennas may include portions of a ground plane containing the plastic-filled slot, may include an inverted-F antenna resonating element that is separated from an antenna ground plane by the plastic-filled slot, or may include other antenna structures.
The plastic-filled slot that is associated with the non-millimeter-wave antenna may serve as a millimeter wave antenna window. A millimeter wave antenna array may be mounted in alignment with the millimeter wave antenna window and may transmit and receive antenna signals through the window. Millimeter wave antenna windows in metal device housings may also have the shapes of logos, gaps in peripheral conductive housing structures, and other shapes.
Millimeter wave antenna windows may be formed from air-filled openings in a metal housing such as audio port openings, connector port openings, or other holes in the metal walls of an electronic device. Millimeter wave antennas may be formed from slot antennas, patch antennas, dipoles, or other antennas.
Apple’s patent FIGS. 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 below are perspective views of illustrative electronic devices showing illustrative locations at which antenna arrays for millimeter wave communications may be located. As you’ll learn later in a video, smartphones may have to implement multiple millimeter wave antennas in a phone in order to be able to have the connectivity required to use 5G.
Apple’s patent FIG. 17 above is a perspective view of an illustrative electronic device with a slot antenna such as slot antenna #116 may be mounted in alignment with millimeter wave antenna window #114 in metal housing #12.
In the illustrative configuration of patent FIG. 3, a cellular telephone slot antenna (and/or WiFi antenna) is an inverted-F antenna that is being formed using a plastic-filled slot (opening #114) in metal housing wall #12R. The slot extends across rear metal housing wall and down the left and right edges of walls #12W, thereby separating a peripheral portion of the conductive housing structures of the iPhone along the upper edge of the housing from the main portion of rear wall.
The separated portion of the peripheral conductive housing structures forms a conductive metal segment running along at least some of the peripheral edges of the iPhone and serves as inverted-F antenna resonating element #106 (in this example).
Slot #114 separates element #106 from rear metal wall #12W, which serves as antenna ground for the inverted-F antenna. Return path #110 may electrically couple element #106 to ground #104 at a position along the length of slot #114 that is parallel to the antenna feed for the inverted-F antenna.
Apple’s patent FIG. 20 below is a perspective view of an illustrative electronic device having a metal housing with a dielectric slot and having an array of slot antennas aligned with the dielectric slot; FIG. 21 is a top view of an illustrative dielectric window in a metal housing in which an array of antennas such as an array of slot antennas has been mounted; FIG. 22 is a perspective view of a portion of an electronic device with openings such as speaker holes or other air-filled audio port openings in which slot antennas have been mounted.
Apple’s patent FIG. 23 is a perspective view of a portion of a metal device housing that has been provided with an array of openings and associated slot antennas; FIG. 24 is a perspective view of a portion of a metal electronic device housing with an array of metal structures in a grid of dielectric that can accommodate antennas; and FIG. 25 is a top view of an illustrative cross-shaped dielectric region in a metal housing that may be used to accommodate a millimeter wave antenna.
Apple’s patent application 20190214708 that was published today by the U.S. Patent Office was filed back in Q1 2019. Some of the original work on this patent dates back to 205. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.
For those wanting to know how Millimeter Wave technology works, the Engadget video below presents a nice overview.
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