Contributed by Paul Pulkowski, Marketing Manager; Maciek Czerwinski, Director of Sales and Business Development; and Rick Lopez, Sales Engineer and Project Manager, binder USA
The potential of 5G connectivity is nearly limitless with statistics that are difficult to imagine. Analysts predict that worldwide 5G connections will double in 2022 to 1.34 billion, and grow to 3.6 billion by 2025.1 The global 5G services market size ended 2021 with a value of $65.26 billion, with a forecast of annual compounded growth (CAGR) of 25.9% for a value of $327.83 billion by 2028.2 AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless are racing to install their 5G infrastructure across the U.S. and deliver on a technology designed to reach speeds of up to 20 Gbps with extremely low latency. And mobile data usage, which grew by a factor of 200 between 2010 and 2020, is predicted to grow by a staggering factor of 20,000.3
But we’re not there yet.
Right now, the benefits of 5G are most obvious in personal devices such as smart phones and home appliances like smart thermostats. But as the 5G rollout builds momentum, its impact will be dramatic. Data-heavy applications that benefit from real-time communication will see major advances. These include autonomous vehicles, robotic surgery, medical wearables, traffic management, and of course, IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) in today’s smart factories among many others.
What does all of this have to do with connectors?
Electrical connectors are a critical part of the infrastructure that enables 5G connectivity. They act as a vital link between the cables carrying data and the devices that communicate information, which have multiplied exponentially. Advances in high speed data transmission have spurred innovation in connector design in terms of performance, size, and electromagnetic signal interference (EMI) shielding. Different versions and sizes are used in communication applications, but M16 connectors have become a go-to for 5G antennas.
For cell tower antennas, the demand for faster and more reliable data transmission has driven the development of connectors able to support the specific requirements. set by the Antenna Interface Standards Group (AISG). The AISG defines the communication interface for “remote electrical tilt” (RET) of the mobile phone antenna. The AISG standard helps to define the AISG connector for RS-485 (AISG C485), which is used for outdoor applications.4 The AISG standard has been redefined in terms of electrical and mechanical characteristics, environmental conditions, and materials. (See Figure 1.)
Updated AISG standards include the following:
- Rated voltage of 32 V
- Current carrying capacity of 5 A per contact
- Contact resistance (≤ 5 mΩ)
- Insulation resistance (≥108 Ω)
- IP68 protection degree
- >100 mating cycles
- Insertion and withdrawal forces of 60 N max
- Keying method
- Vibration and shock resistance
- Cable retention force of 80N
- Harsh environment resistance (protection against temperature, salt mist, sunlight, and rain exposure)
Material and other characteristics:
- Housing surface of nickel is recommended
- Contact plating of gold or silver
- Crimp or solder termination
- 8 pins with 4 to 5 pins used
- M16 x 0.75 screw locking system
- EMC shielding
The miniaturization of connectors
As 5G networks and other high speed data transmission applications grow larger each year, connectors have consistently become smaller. Circular connectors are challenged to save space and weight and handle lightning-fast speeds, all while continuing to provide reliability and the ruggedness that stands up to the harsh conditions 5G cell towers are exposed to. This has tasked design engineers to strike a balance between performance and reliability. The optimal balance will be determined in large part by the application and working with customers to ensure all criteria are met. However, today almost every market, not just communications, demands high performance and durability in a smaller package, so the investment in design is critical for the success of suppliers.
As buildings and other physical objects impede 5G radio frequencies, millions of cell phones, computers, and smart devices create significant potential for disruptions due to EMI. The most effective defense against EMI is filtering at the connector interface.5 Optimized 360° EMC (electromagnetic compatibility) shielding for M16 connectors provides the highest integrity for sensitive signal and power connections. Shielding is metal and available as a cable clamp or shielding ring.
Effective shielding meets the attenuation requirements of the DIN 47250-6 standard. Attenuation is the loss of signal strength in network cables or connections during transmission. It is typically measured in decibels or voltage. (See Figure 2.)
Positive outlook for circular connector market continues
As of year-end 2019, the global connector market was valued at $64.17 billion. It is projected to grow at a CAGR of 6.7% from 2020 to 2027, for a market size of more than $98 billion in 2027.7 This figure includes all connector types – electrical, I/O, circular, printed circuit board (PCB) and others. Circular connectors account for approximately 7% of the total market, for sales of $4.3 billion in 2020. While the COVID-19 pandemic hit most markets, circular connectors declined only 1.4% and are now recovering with encouraging strength.8 As 5G, IIoT, and other Industry 4.0 applications expand, so will the need for higher-performing, smaller, and lighter connectors.
- Weissberger, A. (2021, October 21). CCS Insights: 5G connections will triple this year to 637 M, then to 1.34B in 2022. [Web log post]. Retrieved from https:techblog.comsoc.org/2021.
- Absolute Reports. (2022, January 7). Global 5G Applications and Services Market Growth (Status and Outlook) 2022-2028. Retrieved from https://www.absolutereports.com/global-5g-applications-and-services-market-19885180
- Grand View Research. (2022, February). 5G Services Market Size, Share & Trends Analysis Report By Communication Type (FWA, eMBB, uRLLC, mMTC), By Vertical (Manufacturing, IT & Telecom, BFSI), By Region, And Segment Forecasts, 2022 – 2030. Retrieved from https://www.grandviewresearch.com/industry-analysis/5g-services-market.
- Jack, Izzy. (2021, September 10. What is a Millimeter Wave? [Web log post]. weBoost, a subsidiary of Wilson Electronics, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.weboost.com/blog/what-is-a-millimeter-wave.
- AISG Standard No. AISG C485 V1.1. (2016). Retrieved from https://aisg.org.uk/files/AISG-Connector-specification-C485-v1.1.pdf.
- Smith, L. (2020, April 6). Three Key Considerations When Selecting EMI/RFI Shielding Solutions for Aerospace and Defense Applications. ConnectorSupplier.com. Retrieved from https://www.connectorsupplier.com/three-key-considerations-when-selecting-emi-rfi-shielding-solutions-for-aerospace-and-defense-applications/.
- Allied Market Research. (March 2021). Connector Market by Product Type and End User: Global Opportunity Analysis and Industry Forecast, 2020 – 2027. Retrieved from https://www.alliedmarketresearch.com/connector-market-A10619.
- Shaff, David. (September 28, 2021). Circular Connector Market Continues to Expand. Connector Supplier. Retrieved from https://connectorsupplier.com/circular-connector-market-continues-to-expand/.