Mobile connectivity continues to gather pace in the modern world. Whether it’s social media, video streaming or communications, the always-connected era adds pressure to ensure connectivity is front of mind in infrastructure across the world. 

As people increasingly seek to find information, communicate and do more business on mobile devices, the networks facilitating this functionality need to be incredibly robust, reliable and fast. 

One of the biggest advances in this regard is the rollout of the 5G network. It offers faster download speeds to the masses and takes mobile data capabilities to previously unseen levels.

As impressive as the speed of 5G networks are, however, it’s what’s going on behind the scenes to facilitate its growth that is perhaps most outstanding. To keep a network with such spectacular capabilities running requires high-power components that use unprecedented levels of energy. 

This energy use means huge amounts of heat being generated by 5G technology, which can be detrimental to the speed, reliability, performance and lifespan of such components. The control, dissipation and thermal management of that excess latent heat is therefore at the heart of 5G’s future success.

What is 5G Technology?

5G is the latest generation of mobile internet connection. Following on from 1G, 2G, 3G and 4G, 5G is the fastest and most technologically advanced data connection so far. It enables better connectivity to bring people together more effectively. 

5G wireless technology aims to improve on 4G networks, promising: 

  • Higher data speeds
  • Ultra-low latency
  • More reliability
  • Massive network capacity
  • Increased availability
  • A more uniform user experience 

According to Ian Fogg from mobile data analytics company OpenSignal, the 5G network will enable us to do all the things we do with our smartphones but faster, while also opening new technological possibilities. Think smart glasses with augmented reality, better video quality and much more1

Why Thermal Management is Vital for 5G

5G technology, radio units and active antenna devices contain a greater density of high-power components in smaller spaces. This increased power requires more energy consumption, which generates more heat. 

Uncontrolled heat can, however, cause components to burn out, which negatively affects the wider network. Overheating can lead to performance dips or complete breakdown and failure, resulting in network problems, outages and downtime. This, in turn, may leave many people without connections, affecting their personal and professional lives. 

So whether it’s thermal management for 5G antennae, or smartphone thermal management, dissipating heat in 5G technology is important to ensure performance doesn’t drop and devices don’t fail.

The Need for 5G Reliability

Reliability is the target for all 5G networks, and the performance of thermal interface materials helps achieve this. Materials with excellent thermal performance are required to improve heat transfer capabilities and properties, ensuring the ability to cope with ever-increasing reliability requirements.

Effective thermal management is important to keep 5G technology running reliably, as well as extending component lifespans. Given the higher component power required when compared to 3G and 4G, this can be more challenging.

Building High-energy 5G Systems

As an example of the power used within 5G systems, a typical radio frequency (RF) unit consists of several different blocks, including:

  • Low Noise Amplifier (LNA)
  • Power Amplifier (PA)
  • Two Analogue to Digital Converters (ADCs)
  • Digital to Analogue Converters (DACs)
  • Some filters and mixers 

To reduce signal integrity issues at 5G frequencies, several different elements of an antenna must be integrated into a single transceiver chip. Hence, some boards can have up to 16 transceiver chips, creating a high level of complexity2.

Application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) chips and microprocessors especially require a lot of power, emanating high heat. This can be challenging for thermal and mechanical design engineers and a key area for thermal management considerations. 

Such a complex system requires plenty of power that creates ample excess heat. Effective 5G antenna design, from a thermal management point of view, is essential to maintain performance and reliability levels of all parts.

Powering 5G Networks

For the connection itself, 5G also sees networks shift to a higher frequency. Because there’s a higher signal loss at these frequencies, developers require a greater volume of network installations, which means there’s a need for more smaller stations. These increasingly powerful devices retaining a smaller footprint means more heat is generated, which needs managing effectively to avoid any performance dips. 

In addition, mobile devices with 5G capabilities are under added strain when utilizing the network. Testing of early 5G cellular devices showed many overheated when running a 5G connection, falling to 4G to cool down.

But customers will expect a more consistent 5G connection in the future. It’s vital developers effectively manage heat to allow devices to perform optimally, retaining a consistent 5G connection3.

Effective 5G thermal management solutions can help phones keep their increasingly slim footprint while still maintaining the ability to sustain 5G connections without performance drops. Deploying thermal management materials between heat sinks and components, controlling the movement of heat, can prevent overheating, device and network failure.

Effective Thermal Management Solutions for 5G

When it comes to thermal interface materials that can help facilitate the development of 5G networks and devices, our Bergquist® products are the most trusted and effective on the market. 

5G connectivity means there’s a requirement for higher performance and faster connections without increasing component or device sizes. With increased power densities providing a challenge, impactful 5G heat dissipation solutions are more important than ever.

Effective 5G thermal management materials must therefore be easy to process and apply on customer devices for automated mass production lines. For these reasons our latest materials are a combination of:

  • High performance
  • Greater reliability
  • Ease of processing
  • Ease of rework-ability
  • Cost effectiveness

Benefits of 5G Thermal Management Solutions

Bergquist® thermal management solutions can aid the development of 5G networks and devices in many ways, including:

  • Providing solutions for largescale outdoor applicationsBergquist® thermal gels are revolutionizing systems that can reliably manage high volumes of mobile data processing and transfer. Our gels simplify production, dissipate heat at high rates and withstand challenging environmental factors.
  • Dissipating heat in antennae – Higher data rates means antennae have increased processor capabilities in base stations. With thermal GAP PAD® materials and gels, manufacturers can mitigate against these increased power densities without impacting performance.
  • Maintaining performance in routers, servers and switches – Devices face more operational strain than ever. High compliance, surface conformability and low stress of thermal GAP PAD® products is a fantastic solution to improve thermal conductivity in devices without increasing their size.

Effective Thermal Management Products

Useful products for manage heat reliably to improve 5G network and system performance can include:

  • Phase change materials, which change state from solid to liquid to help manage latent heat within circuit boards and other electronic systems by actively eliminating entrapped air pockets.
  • Thermally conductive adhesives, which create a strong bond and attach a component to a heat sink, allowing reliable, long-lasting connections and effective 5G heat dissipation.
  • Thermal gels, which dissipate heat at high rates with high dispersion levels to suit largescale systems and applications.
  • GAP PAD® thermal interface materials, which come in various shapes and sizes to help control excess heat in components and improve operational reliability.  
  • MicroTIM coatings, which protect pluggable optical modules, ensuring parts remain durable and efficient even in the presence of high heat.

To help you select the right product, we provide support in the qualification process by simulating your dispensing process in our lab. This is done in a way that we can replicate your setting parameters to determine the ultimate solution. 

Our portfolio of thermal materials for telecom and datacom applications help boost performance by connecting key components, managing increased heat and protecting sensitive devices. These are all vital in the development of faster, more advanced and powerful 5G networks.

Browse the full thermal management materials portfolio, or contact an expert below for help finding the ideal solution for your application. 

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