Beamforming controls the directionality of the transmission or reception of a signal on an antenna array. Beamforming improves the spectral efficiency by providing a better signal-to-noise ratio (SNR). Working with other antenna technologies such as smart antennas and MIMO, beamforming boosts cell range and capacity. That means mobile device users get stronger, clearer signals.

Millimeter wave (mm-Wave) bands offer a large bandwidth opportunity for mobile communications, which can support not only higher data rates but also ultra-low latencies. As mm-Wave transmissions suffer from significantly higher path loss and are more susceptibility to blockage than lower frequency transmissions, mm-Wave bands have not been utilized for mobile communications until 5G new radio. Beamforming is one of the key techniques used by 5G new radio to overcome these obstacles.

Beamforming Offers Better Coverage at a Cell’s Edge

Beamforming appropriately weights the amplitude and phase of individual antenna signals to create narrowly focused radiation. This makes it possible to provide better coverage in an indoor environment and at the edge of a cell. When end-users are faced with variances in connectivity, even in small areas, satisfaction suffers. Beamforming goes a long way to mitigating this type of poor cell coverage and makes for better experiences overall.

Receiver Beamforming Improves Signal Quality

A beamforming receiver electronically modifies an antenna pattern to focus the antenna in the direction of an arriving signal. Interfering signals in the direction of the incoming signal are suppressed. These modifiable receiver antenna patterns improve signal quality.

Adaptive Beamforming Tracks Users Wherever They Go

Beamforming can be adaptive to continually track a moving terminal. The received signals from the mobile terminal may be processed to continuously optimize the antenna pattern to follow the target. This adaptive beamforming enhances spectral efficiency and link quality. When carriers can more efficiently serve customers and produce a better user experience at the same time, it’s a win-win situation.

Beamforming Technologies Allow Cooperation Among Base Stations

New beamforming technologies exchange control information between base stations at a rapid pace. Signaling between base stations is enhanced to cooperatively and adaptively change beamforming patterns. Handover signaling and beamforming ensure a seamless connection when a user moves between cells.

Beam Management Procedure in 5G New Radio

Beam sweeping: Beam sweeping is used to cover the whole or part of the cell/spatial area in high frequencies. Reference signals (e.g., Synchronization signal blocks) are transmitted in different directions (or beams) in the time domain.

Beam measurement: Beam measurement is performed to identify and select the best beam.

Beam reporting: The wireless device reports information of beamformed signals based on beam measurement.

Beam failure recovery: When the wireless device suffers from poor channel conditions, the quality of the serving beams may deteriorate leading to a beam failure, which needs to be recovered quickly. To that end, 5G NR supports a beam failure recovery procedure.