Beyond 5G chip technology
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Beyond 5G technology

Imec explores solutions to enable the next generation of wireless networking technology. Guided by concrete system needs.

More than ever, connectivity takes center stage in our society. As 5G is being rolled out, the industry is already looking at what lies beyond.

What will the next generation of wireless communication – 6G – bring? Even higher speeds, lower latency and more connections. It will also enable new use cases. Those will thrive on networks of different kinds of devices. And on new modes of interaction between humans and machines. For example:

  • The capture and delivery of true mixed reality (XR) that merges real and virtual worlds.
  • The exchange of large amounts of data. That enables federated learning between AI systems, for example in autonomous cars.

For applications such as these, 5G will be unable to deliver the required throughput, latency, and energy-efficiency levels. Moreover, the congestion of currently used radio bands dictates a move to higher frequencies. To mmWave bands and even above 100 GHz.

Watch the webinar: preparing for mobile communications above 100 GHz.

This video dives into the heart of the 6G hardware that imec envisions:

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The value of compound semiconductors for the move beyond 5G

Imec tackles the challenges that come with the move to higher frequencies within its Advanced RF program. Its aim is to enable high-performance, energy-efficient, scalable and low-cost radio solutions.

More specifically, we explore the use of GaN and InP devices. The reason is they can deliver the desired output power and efficiency for the RF front-end module (FEM). We also study their heterogeneous integration with CMOS required for the beamforming.

2023 press release: imec demonstrates GaN-on-Si MISHEMTs with excellent performance for 5G-advanced base station and mobile device applications

Read this in-depth article about heterogeneous integration technologies to enable the next generation of wireless 6G

Beyond 5G Gan-on-Si technology
Beyond 5G III-V-on-Si technology

Above: example of  fully CMOS-compatible GaN-on-Si technology with 3-level Cu BEOL (reference). Below: III-V-on-Si technology using imec’s unique nano-ridge engineering – here demonstrated for GaAs (reference).

Imec’s Advanced RF program offering

What makes this Advanced RF program so unique? To enable beyond 5G technology, it combines two things. Imec’s long-standing expertise in semiconductor technology. And its world-class knowledge of mmWave circuit design, systems and algorithms.

Join this program to get access to:

  • Radio system design which provides insight into 5G and beyond scenarios and use cases.
  • System-technology co-optimization (STCO) to achieve optimal radio functionality partitioning and guide the device process technologies and packaging/interconnection approaches.
  • Novel low-power architectures enabled by the heterogeneous integration of CMOS and III-V technologies.
  • High-speed InP and GaN RF devices using low-cost high-volume Si-compatible processes, modules and toolsets to provide a path to high-volume production.
  • Unique packaging and heterogeneous integration solutions like RF-tailored 2.5D/3D integration, including the antenna module.
  • Modeling and advanced characterization to help the technology pathfinding. This includes reliability aspects as well as thermal design.
  • Demonstrators to showcase the advantage of combining III-V and CMOS.
Beyond PA and NLA with integrated switch

A 4-stage PA and LNA with integrated switch. Designed in 22nm CMOS with 12.5 dBm output power at 140 GHZ (reference).

Want to become a partner in this beyond 5G program?

Get in touch

Beyond 5G technology blogs

"It’s time to start imagining the kind of 6G we want"

Beyond 5G blog

Imec fellow Piet Wambacq shares his vision on where the next generation of cellular connectivity can take us. And on what we need to realize that future.

Read this blog post

"To reap the rewards of 6G, we need to start sowing the seeds now"

Michael Peeters, VP R&D connectivity at imec, explains why there is no time like the present to tackle some key technologies that will make or break 6G.

Read this blog post

"To boost 6G energy efficiency, we need models that can handle its complexities"

Margot Deruyck

Margot Deruyck, FWO-Postdoctoral Fellow at WAVES, an imec research group at Ghent University, dives into the power consumption of next-gen wireless networks.

Read this blog post


PhD and postdoc opportunities for beyond 5G technology

Do you (almost) have a master’s degree in electrical engineering, computer science, or another related field? Are you excited about the recent evolutions in beyond 5G?  And do you want to help change the world by making communication ubiquitous, sustainable intelligent and/or invisible? Then you should consider applying for a PhD or postdoc position at imec.

Explore our PhD and postdoc opportunities