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Apple Patent reveals the use of Millimeter Wave Antennas in Future iPhones for 5G Networks & Wireless Charging



In May, Patently Apple posted a report titled "Apple Seeks License from FCC Covering new Wireless Millimeter Wave Technology Found in a Recent Patent Filing." In that report we noted that an application for an experimental license to use new wireless technology, called millimeter wave, was signed on Tuesday by Apple and made public by the FCC. Earlier in April a patent application from Apple surfaced describing wireless patch antennas that could use millimeter wave communications. Then in June a future iPhone case patent filing came to light that described using millimeter wave technology. Then in August Patently Apple discovered a patent application in Europe that Apple filed for a next-gen millimeter wave yagi antenna. Millimeter wave antennas will likely be used in iDevices that support 5G networks.


Today the U.S. Patent Office published a new patent application from Apple titled "Electronic Device with Millimeter Wave Antennas," illustrating an iPhone adopting the new antennas.


According to Scientific American, "One of the most promising potential 5G technologies under consideration is the use of high-frequency signals—in the millimeter-wave frequency band—that could allocate more bandwidth to deliver faster, higher-quality video and multimedia content. Other lines of research seek to enable a single mobile device to simultaneously connect to multiple wireless networks to boost connectivity and speed.


One difference will be that 5G may move wireless signals to a higher frequency band, operating at millimeter-length wavelengths between 30 and 300 gigahertz (GHz) on the radio spectrum. That's going to open up a huge amount of bandwidth and alleviate concerns about wireless traffic congestion."


The world's largest technical organization known as IEEE noted as far back as 2008 noted that wireless millimeter wave technology could possibly play a role a supporting wireless transfer of power and fast-charging.


Electronic Device with Millimeter Wave Antennas


While today's iDevices include wireless communications circuitry, there may be a way to advance such circuitry by supporting 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.


Apple's invention is to improve wireless communications circuitry such as communications circuitry that supports millimeter wave communications. The wireless circuitry may include one or more antennas. The antennas may include phased antenna arrays each of which includes multiple antenna elements. The phased antenna arrays may be used to handle millimeter wave wireless communications and may perform beam steering operations.


Phased antenna arrays may be mounted along edges of a housing for the electronic device, behind a dielectric logo or other antenna window in a rear face of the housing, may be mounted in alignment with dielectric housing portions at corners of a housing, or may be incorporated elsewhere in an electronic device as noted below in patent FIG. 2.


2 millimeter wave antennas for next-gen iPhones and iPad

A baseband processor may distribute wireless signals to the phased antenna arrays at intermediate frequencies over intermediate frequency signal paths. Transceiver circuits at the phased antenna arrays may include upconverters and downconverters coupled to the intermediate frequency signal paths. This arrangement allows path losses to be minimized by distributing signals to the phased antenna arrays at intermediate frequencies and locally converting the intermediate frequency signals to radio-frequency signals for the antennas.


A phased antenna array may include one or more arrays of patch antenna elements. With one suitable arrangement, a phased antenna array may have first and second patch antenna arrays supported by dielectric layers that are separated by an interposed ground layer. Transceiver circuit components may be mounted to one of the dielectric layers to form an integral antenna array and transceiver circuit module. This type of phased antenna array may be mounted at the corners of an electronic device housing and may operate through the front and rear surfaces of the device.


Beyond being used in future iDevices and Macs, Apple notes that the new antennas may be applied to other possible future devices such as a device embedded in eyeglasses or other equipment worn on a user's head, or other wearable or miniature device, a television, a computer display that does not contain an embedded computer, a gaming device, a navigation device and an embedded system such as a system in which electronic equipment with a display is mounted in a kiosk or automobile.


Apple's patent application 20170302306 was filed back in Q2 2007. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.


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