The Nijmegen based innovation center CITC is working on the next generation of mobile communication technology. They join forces with AntenneX to further research and develop technological innovations that will probably be rolled out in 10 years’ time. Because as users we might still be getting used to 5G, but this partnership has its mind set already on the future 6G.
A spin-off of TU Eindhoven, AntenneX is the result of years of research into electromagnetic measurement systems. Co-founder Sander Bronckers: “Ten, fifteen years ago, we couldn’t measure integrated antennas in chips. At the university, we developed measurement equipment to do so. These machines quickly became popular, but the university is not set up to sell them. That’s why we set up AntenneX, to be able to bring these solutions to market.”
The other half of the collaboration, Novio Tech Campus-based Chip Integration Technology Center (CITC), does not focus on antennas or chips, but on the packaging of these elements. According to Program Manager Francesca Chiappini, a consumer actually rarely comes into contact with chips. “You have probably never seen a chip, just the packaging around it. Chips are fragile, but that is not the only reason we package them. Packaging is an essential element for chips to be able to be connected and communicate with the electronic devices they are placed in.”
So why work together?
At first glance, CITC and AntenneX work in separate fields of expertise. Sander and Francesca explain why cooperation between the two companies is so valuable. “We are complementary in all areas. We are not competing on any topic, which means we can both share knowledge, risk-free.”
The cooperation is therefore only logical, Francesca explains. “6G will be the new form of communication technology, but it is still being developed. This means that we need expertise from all areas. We need new chips and new packaging. These 6G chips will also have integrated antenna systems.” CITC researches the packaging and the antennas for these new chips, but does not have the expertise to measure the functioning of antennas at these very high frequencies in this new packaging.
“This is where we come in”, says Sander. “AntenneX has developed not only specific measuring equipment to characterize the packaging materials, but also chambers to measure the antennas. One type of these, our anechoic chamber, does not reflect signals, so we can test in a perfect environment.” With this, AntenneX enables CITC to determine whether its new antennas are doing what they are supposed to do.
Success from the start
For CITC, the collaboration has been an instant success. “Working with AntenneX gives us more certainty about our products. We can’t just go out and buy measuring equipment. We need companies that develop equipment specifically for us. And even then, you need people who know how the systems work. Because AntenneX can provide both, the cooperation is a success.”
For AntenneX, there is a second advantage to joining forces. Sander: “CITC is a large and established brand in the world of packaging. So, working together is also an opportunity for us to create brand awareness. We are a start-up, and are still building our business. A collaboration like this is a golden opportunity to increase our impact and learn about customer needs at the same time.”
How will 6G impact everyday life?
CITC and AntenneX already know what 6G will bring in the future, so what are the benefits? Both experts are unanimous. “6G will bring consumers more bandwidth and speed when sharing data. You will experience faster internet and many more devices can be connected at the same time without interfering with each other.”
This increased capacity and speed also enable innovations in other areas of research. “Think of self-driving cars, for example. With 6G, cars can communicate in real-time, and constantly check where people and other vehicles are. That will make the technology even safer.”
For specialists like Francesca and Sander, the switch from 5G to 6G primarily means more complexity. “A higher frequency causes that higher speed and bandwidth. We speak of 6G when the signal operates at over 100 gigahertz. By comparison, Wi-Fi operates below 6 gigahertz. At these high frequencies, the wavelengths of signals become very short, making it harder to measure accurately. So, in order to check whether the antennas, which will only become relevant in ten years’ time, actually work, we have to develop new technologies now. It’s a matter of staying ahead of the trailblazers.”