15 June 2022
BT in the UK announced a pioneering trial of a new hyper-sensitive quantum antenna technology using excited atomic states that could boost the capability of next generation 5G and IoT networks.
Atomic Radio Frequency (RF) receiver technology represents a revolutionary new way of detecting radio waves that could find much weaker signals than conventional receivers. The receiver works by using a quantum effect called “electromagnetically induced transparency” to form a highly sensitive electric field detector. BT’s trial represents the first time a digitally-encoded message has been received on a 3.6GHz (5G) carrier frequency. Previously, simple audio has been received using much higher frequencies but this trial is the first industrial demonstration using digital modulation within one of EE’s main commercial 5G frequency ranges.
This new type of receiver may reduce mobile network energy consumption, enable Internet of Things (IoT) devices to become more cost efficient and longer lasting and support lower-cost smart cities and smart agriculture. The new technology could in future form the basis of ultra-sensitive 5G receivers for use in very low power passive mobile networks.
“Our programme has huge potential to boost the performance of our next generation EE network and deliver an even better service to our customers,” says Howard Watson, chief technology officer, BT. “Although it’s early days for the technology, we’re proud to be playing an instrumental role in developing cutting edge science”.
Researchers at BT Labs in Martlesham are now working to miniaturise the equipment and find the optimum RF modulation and signal processing for potential use in future generations of radio networks.