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Title:
DUAL-POLARIZED RADIATING ELEMENT AND ANTENNA
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2019/052632
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
The present invention provides a dual-polarized radiating element (100) comprising a feeding arrangement (101) and four dipole arms (103). The feeding arrangement (101) comprises four slots (102), which extend from a periphery towards a center of the feeding arrangement (101) and are arranged at regular angular intervals (104) forming a first angular arrangement. The four dipole arms (103) extend outwards from the feeding arrangement (101) and are arranged at regular angular intervals (105) forming a second angular arrangement. The second angular arrangement of the four dipole arms (103) is rotated (106) with respect to the first angular arrangement of the four slots (102).

Inventors:
GONZALEZ, Ignacio (Munich, 80992, DE)
SEGADOR ALVAREZ, Juan (Munich, 80992, DE)
SPRANGER, Christoph (Munich, 80992, DE)
BISCONTINI, Bruno (Munich, 80992, DE)
Application Number:
EP2017/072857
Publication Date:
March 21, 2019
Filing Date:
September 12, 2017
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
HUAWEI TECHNOLOGIES CO., LTD. (Huawei Administration Building Bantian Longgang District, Shenzhen, Guangdong 9, 518129, CN)
GONZALEZ, Ignacio (Munich, 80992, DE)
International Classes:
H01Q1/24; H01Q5/48; H01Q9/16; H01Q21/06; H01Q21/26; H01Q21/28; H01Q21/30; H01Q25/00
Foreign References:
CN102544764A2012-07-04
GB2534689A2016-08-03
EP1906491A12008-04-02
Other References:
LIU YING ET AL: "A Novel Miniaturized Broadband Dual-Polarized Dipole Antenna for Base Station", IEEE ANTENNAS AND WIRELESS PROPAGATION LETTERS, vol. 12, 13 December 2013 (2013-12-13), pages 1335 - 1338, XP011531307, ISSN: 1536-1225, [retrieved on 20131023], DOI: 10.1109/LAWP.2013.2285373
KOMANDLA MOHANA VAMSHI ET AL: "Dual slant polarized cavity backed massive MIMO panel array antenna with digital beamforming", 2017 IEEE INTERNATIONAL SYMPOSIUM ON ANTENNAS AND PROPAGATION & USNC/URSI NATIONAL RADIO SCIENCE MEETING, IEEE, 9 July 2017 (2017-07-09), pages 1429 - 1430, XP033229969, DOI: 10.1109/APUSNCURSINRSM.2017.8072757
None
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
KREUZ, Georg (Huawei Technologies Duesseldorf GmbH, Riesstr. 8, Munich, 80992, DE)
Download PDF:
Claims:
Claims

1. Dual-polarized radiating element (100), comprising

a feeding arrangement (101) comprising four slots (102), which extend from a periphery towards a center of the feeding arrangement (101) and are arranged at regular angular intervals (104) forming a first angular arrangement, and

four dipole arms (103), which extend outwards from the feeding arrangement (101) and are arranged at regular angular intervals (105) forming a second angular arrangement,

wherein the second angular arrangement of the four dipole arms (103) is rotated (106) with respect to the first angular arrangement of the four slots (102).

2. Dual-polarized radiating element (100) according to claim 1 , wherein

the four slots (102) and the four dipole arms (103), respectively, are arranged at 90° intervals (104, 105), and

the second angular arrangement of the four dipole arms is rotated by 45° (106) with respect to the first angular arrangement of the four slots (102).

3. Dual-polarized radiating element (100) according to claim 1 or 2, wherein

adjacently arranged slots (102) extend perpendicular to another,

non-adjacently arranged slots (102) extend in-line with another, and

the two in-line extending slot pairs define two orthogonal polarizations of the dual-polarized radiating element (100).

4. Dual-polarized radiating element (100) according to one of the claims 1 to 3, wherein

each slot (102) is terminated at its inner end by a symmetrically bent slot (201), preferably by a U-shaped slot.

5. Dual-polarized radiating element (100) according to one of the claims 1 to 4, wherein

at least a part (203) of each dipole arm (102) extends upwards and/or downwards with respect to the feeding arrangement plane.

6. Dual-polarized radiating element (100) according to one of the claims 1 to 5, wherein

each dipole arm (102) is terminated at its outer end by a flap (204), particularly by a flap bent downwards or upwards with respect to the feeding arrangement plane and optionally bent back towards the feeding arrangement (101).

7. Dual-polarized radiating element (100) according to one of the claims 1 to 6, further comprising

a parasitic director (401) arranged above the feeding arrangement (101).

8. Dual-polarized radiating element (100) according to claim 7, wherein

the parasitic director (401) extends outwards from the feeding arrangement (101) less than each of the four dipole arms (103), and/or

each dipole arm (103) comprises an outer part (203) extending upwards with respect to the feeding arrangement plane, and the parasitic director (401) is arranged in a recess (501) defined within the four outer parts (203).

9. Dual-polarized radiating element (100) according to one of the claims 1 to 8, wherein

the feeding arrangement (101) comprises four transmission lines (601), each transmission line (601) crossing one of the four slots (102).

10. Dual-polarized radiating element (100) according to claim 9, wherein

two transmission lines (601) crossing non-adjacent slots (102) are combined into one transmission line (602).

11. Dual-polarized radiating element (100) according to claim 10, wherein

the feeding arrangement (101) comprises a printed circuit board, PCB, (205) on which PCB (205) the four transmission lines (601) are combined into the two transmission lines (502), or

the radiating element (100) comprises a PCB arrangement (603) extending from a bottom surface of the feeding arrangement (101), on which PCB arrangement (603) the four transmission lines (601) are combined into the two transmission lines (602).

12. Dual-polarized radiating element (100) according to one of the claims 1 to 11 , further comprising

four flaps (902, 1600) extending from the feeding arrangement (101), wherein each one of the four slots (102) is extended on one of the four flaps (902, 1600).

13. Dual-polarized radiating element (100) according to one of the claims 1 to 12, wherein

the feeding arrangement (101) comprises a PCB (205), on which the four slots (102) are arranged and to which the four dipole arms (103) are connected.

14. Dual-polarized radiating element (100) according to claims 12 and 13, wherein the four flaps (1600) are connected to the PCB (205) and are bent upwards with respect to the feeding arrangement plane and are arranged in between the four dipole arms (102), respectively.

15. Dual-polarized radiating element (100) according to claim 14, wherein

the four flaps (1600) and the four dipole arms (102) are formed by four separate integral elements (1900),

each integral element (1900) comprises one dipole arm (103) and two sub-flaps (1601) and each flap (1600) is formed by two sub-flaps (1601) of adjacent integral elements (1900).

16. Dual-polarized radiating element (100) according to claim 15, wherein

each integral element (1900) is soldered at its dipole arm (103) with one soldering point (206) to the PCB (205) and at each of its two sub-flaps (1601) with soldering point (206) to the PCB (205).

17. Dual-polarized radiating element (100) according to one of the claims 1 to 13, wherein

the feeding arrangement comprising a metal sheet (901),

wherein the four slots (102) are cut outs in the metal sheet (901) and also the four dipole arms (103) are formed by the metal sheet (901).

18. Dual-polarized radiating element (100) according to claims 12 and 17, wherein the metal sheet (901) comprises the four flaps (902), which are bent upwards or downwards with respect to the feeding arrangement plane and are arranged in between the four dipole arms (102), respectively.

19. Antenna (1500), comprising

at least one dual-polarized radiating element (100) according to one of the claims 1 to 18,

wherein two dipole arms (103) of the at least one dual-polarized radiating element (100) extend along a longitudinal axis (1501) of the antenna (1500), and two dipole arms (103) of the at least one dual-polarized radiating element (100) extend along a lateral axis (1502) of the antenna (1500).

20. Antenna (1500) according to claim 19, wherein

each slot (102) of the at least one dual-polarized radiating element (100) extends at an angle of 45° with respect to the longitudinal axis (1501) of the antenna (1500).

21. Antenna (1500) according to claim 19 or 20, comprising

a plurality of dual-polarized radiating elements (100) arranged along the longitudinal axis (1501) of the antenna in at least a first column (1504), and

a plurality of other radiating elements (1400) arranged along the longitudinal axis (1501) of the antenna in at least two second columns (1503) disposed side-by-side the at least one first column (1504),

wherein the dipole arms (103) of the dual-polarized radiating elements (100) extend between the other radiating elements (1400) in the at least two second columns (1503).

22. Antenna (1500) according to claim 21, wherein

the antenna (1500) is configured for multiband operation, and

the dual-polarized radiating elements (100) are configured to radiate in a lower frequency band, and the other radiating elements (1400) are configured to radiate in a higher frequency band.

23. Antenna (1500) according to one of the claims 19 to 22, wherein a plurality of dual-polarized radiating elements (100) are interleaved with a plurality of other radiating elements (1400) that form a massive Multiple Input Multiple Output, mMIMO, array.

Description:
DUAL-POLARIZED RADIATING ELEMENT AND ANTENNA TECHNICAL FIELD

The present invention relates to a dual-polarized radiating element for an antenna, i.e. to a radiating element configured to emit radiation of two different polarizations. The present invention relates further to an antenna, specifically to a multiband antenna comprising at least one dual-polarized radiating element according to the present invention, and preferably one or more other radiating elements, more preferably other radiating elements forming a massive Multiple Input Multiple Output (mMIMO) array.

BACKGROUND

With the deployment of LTE systems, network operators are adding new spectrum to networks, in order to increase their network capacity. To this end, antenna vendors are encouraged to develop new antennas with more antenna ports/arrays and supporting further frequency bands, without increasing the antenna size.

For instance, Multiple Input Multiple Output (MIMO) requirements in the current LTE standard require a duplication of the number of antenna ports/ arrays, at least in higher frequency bands. In particular, to exploit all capabilities of the current LTE standard, new antennas should necessarily support 4x4 MIMO in the higher frequency bands. Additionally, in order to be ready for future deployments, MIMO support is also desired in lower frequency bands.

At the same time, there is a growing demand for a deeper integration of antennas with Active Antenna Systems (AAS). One of the key technologies to enable new generations of mobile communications is mMIMO below 6 GHz. Accordingly the integration with a mMIMO antenna array is highly desired. Integration with AAS or mMIMO antenna arrays, however, leads to highly complex systems, and thus strongly influences the antenna form factor, since it is fundamental for commercial field deployment. One of the dominant limiting factors in this context is the antenna height. Reducing the antenna height for new antennas would mean a significant simplification of the overall deployment process of an AAS or of a traditional passive antenna system.

Additionally, in order to facilitate site acquisition, and to fulfill local regulations regarding site upgrades, also the antenna width of new antennas should be at least comparable to legacy products. In particular, to maintain the mechanical support structures already existing in the sites, specifically the wind load of new antennas should be equivalent to the ones of legacy products. All the above factors lead to very strict limitations in antenna height and width for the new antennas, despite of the requirement for more antenna ports/arrays and for further frequency bands. Furthermore, despite of these size limitations, radio frequency (RF) performance of new antennas should also be equivalent to legacy products, in order to maintain (or even improve) the coverage area and network performance.

Specifically, when considering the performance of a radiating element included in an antenna, a reduction of the antenna height naturally implies also a reduction of the radiating element, and would lead to a reduction in the relative bandwidth that can be covered with an acceptable RF performance. Thus, in order to at least cover the standard operating bands in base station antenna systems, and to at least maintain the same RF performance, with a reduced antenna height, requires new concepts for radiating elements different from the legacy technology.

In order to meet the above-mentioned requirements for 4x4 MIMO, especially the number of higher frequency band (HB) arrays in the same antenna aperture must practically be duplicated. In order to meet also the above-mentioned size limitations, particularly regarding antenna width, these HB arrays should be placed closer to each other than in legacy antenna architectures. To this end, new concepts for especially lower frequency band (LB) radiating elements are needed, specifically ones that can coexist with tightly spaced HB arrays.

Conventional LB radiating elements are not sufficient to meet the above-mentioned requirements. Conventional LB radiating elements are either not shaped such that they can be used in multiband antenna architectures with very tightly spaced HB arrays, or they are not optimized with respect to antenna height and operating bandwidth, respectively. Furthermore, conventional LB and HB radiating elements, respectively, are not shaped and optimized in terms of their height so that they cannot be well integrated with a mMIMO array.

SUMMARY

In view of the above-mentioned challenges and disadvantages, the present invention aims to improve conventional radiating elements and conventional multiband antennas. In particular, the present invention has the object to provide a radiating element that has broadband characteristics, but is at the same time low profile. In addition, the radiating element should have a shape that allows minimum spacing between two arrays in a multiband antenna or that allows integrating it with a mMIMO array. In particular, the radiating element should allow maximized utilization of the available space in the multiband antenna aperture. Further, the shadow of the radiating element on another array of radiating elements, for instance a mMIMO array, should be minimized.

Notably, broadband characteristics here means a relative bandwidth of larger than 30%. Low profile means that the antenna height is smaller than 0.15λ, wherein λ is the wavelength at the lowest frequency of the frequency band of the operating radiating element.

The object of the present invention is achieved by the solutions provided in the enclosed independent claims. Advantageous implementations of the present invention are further defined in the dependent claims.

The main idea of the present invention is combining, in the provided radiating element, a dipole feeding concept, in order to provide broadband characteristics, with a radiating element shape, which is optimized to work in a multiband antenna together with tightly spaced arrays of other radiating elements, for instance a mMIMO array.

A first aspect of the present invention provides a dual-polarized radiating element, comprising a feeding arrangement comprising four slots, which extend from a periphery towards a center of the feeding arrangement and are arranged at regular angular intervals forming a first angular arrangement, and four dipole arms, which extend outwards from the feeding arrangement and are arranged at regular angular intervals forming a second angular arrangement, wherein the second angular arrangement of the four dipole arms is rotated with respect to the first angular arrangement of the four slots.

The mentioned rotation is around an axis of rotation perpendicular to the extension directions of the slots and dipole arms. The axis extends through a middle of the dual polarized radiating element, from a bottom to the top of the dual polarized radiating element.

The feeding arrangement including the four slots provides the radiating element with the desired broadband characteristics. The shape of the radiating element, in particular the angular arrangements of the dipole arms and the slots, respectively, which are rotated with respect to another, provides the radiating element with the desired shape that is optimized to work in a multiband antennas together with very tightly spaced HB arrays. In particular, the shape of the radiating element minimizes its interference with higher frequency radiating elements arranged side-by-side on the same multiband antenna. This consequently allows minimizing a distance between different arrays of those higher frequency radiating elements. Particularly, the radiating element fulfils the above - mentioned conditions that it is firstly low profile, but is secondly provided with broadband characteristics.

In a first implementation form of the first aspect, the four slots and the four dipole arms, respectively, are arranged at 90° intervals, and the second angular arrangement of the four dipole arms is rotated by 45° with respect to the first angular arrangement of the four slots. The mentioned intervals can include a manufacturing tolerance interval e.g. ±5 degrees or even only ±2 degrees.

The radiating element can thus be arranged on an antenna such that its two emitted radiation polarizations are rotated by 45° with respect to a longitudinal axis of the antenna. Nevertheless, the dipole arms of the radiating element are arranged such that two of the dipole arms extend in line with the longitudinal axis of the antenna, while two of the dipole arms extend laterally at a 90° angle with respect to this axis. This orientation of the dipole arms allows arranging the radiating element between tightly spaced HB arrays, wherein the laterally extending dipole arms extend between other radiating elements in these HB arrays.

In a further implementation form of the first aspect, adjacently arranged slots extend perpendicular to another, non-adjacently arranged slots extend in line with another and the two in-line extending slot pairs define the two orthogonal polarizations of the dual- polarized radiating element.

In a further implementation form of the first aspect, each slot is terminated at its inner end by a symmetrically bent slot, preferably by a U-shaped slot.

The purpose of the symmetrically bent slots is extending the total length of each slot for impedance matching purposes. Since typically the slot length cannot be extended any more towards the center of the feeding arrangement, it is instead extended in a bent manner, for instance, by leading the symmetrically bent slots backwards in direction of the periphery of the feeding element.

In a further implementation form of the first aspect, at least a part of each dipole arm extends upwards and/or downwards with respect to the feeding arrangement plane. In the present disclosure, the feeding arrangement plane is a plane crossing all slots or having all slots lying in it and being perpendicular to the axis of rotation around which the second angular arrangement is rotated with respect to the first angular arrangement.

Thereby, the dipole arms can become electrically longer, without increasing their footprint. Additionally, due to an increased distance to ground, the capacitance to ground can be reduced, which allows increasing the working bandwidth.

In a further implementation form of the first aspect, each dipole arm is terminated at its outer end by a flap, particularly by a flap bent downwards or upwards with respect to the feeding arrangement plane and optionally bent back towards the feeding arrangement.

The flaps make the dipole arms of the radiating element electrically longer, without increasing their footprint. In a further implementation form of the first aspect, the radiating element further comprises a parasitic director arranged above the feeding arrangement.

The parasitic director can be utilized to achieve the desired bandwidth, and thus to minimize the size of the radiating element.

In a further implementation form of the first aspect, the parasitic director extends outwards from the feeding arrangement less than each of the four dipole arms, and/or each dipole arm comprises an outer part extending upwards with respect to the feeding arrangement plane, and the parasitic director is arranged in a recess defined within the four outer parts.

Accordingly, the size of the radiating element, especially its width and height, are kept as small as possible.

In a further implementation form of the first aspect, the feeding arrangement comprises four transmission lines, each transmission line crossing one of the four slots.

The four transmission lines are preferably short-ended microstrip lines, which feed the four slots.

In a further implementation form of the first aspect, two transmission lines crossing non- adjacent slots are combined into one transmission line. Thus, a symmetrical feeding of non-adjacent slots by a common transmission line is enabled. Accordingly, the radiating element can be operated to emit radiation of two polarization directions.

In a further implementation form of the first aspect, the feeding arrangement comprises a printed circuit board (PCB), on which PCB the four transmission lines are combined into the two transmission lines, or the radiating element comprises a PCB arrangement extending from a bottom surface of the feeding arrangement, on which PCB arrangement the four transmission lines are combined into the two transmission lines. In a further implementation form of the first aspect, the radiating element further comprises four flaps extending from the feeding arrangement, wherein each one of the four slots is extended on one of the four flaps. Due to the four flaps, the size of the feeding arrangement, and thus of the whole radiating element, can be reduced without sacrificing performance. A size reduction of the feeding arrangement inevitably leads to less space available for the four slots, and thus leads to shorter slots. To compensate this, the four slots are electrically extended by the use of the four flaps. The extending slots may thereby divide each flap into two sub-flaps. Accordingly, the feeding arrangement plane can overall be made smaller, with the four flaps increasing its size only at the slot positions. The four flaps may even extend in an angle from the feeding arrangement, or may be bent upwards or downwards with respect to the feeding arrangement plane, in order to reduce the footprint of the radiating element even further. The size reduction of the radiating element is particularly advantageous when an antenna array including many such radiating elements is to be integrated with another array of other radiating elements, for instance, a mMIMO array. This is due to less shadowing on the other radiating elements.

In a further implementation form of the first aspect, the feeding arrangement comprises a PCB, on which the four slots are arranged into which the four dipole arms are connected.

In a further implementation form of the first aspect, the four flaps are connected to the PCB, wherein the four flaps are bent upwards with respect to the feeding arrangement plane and are arranged in between the four dipole arms, respectively.

Bending the four flaps allows extending the four slots electrically, while not significantly extending the feeding arrangement plane outwardly. Therefore, the size of the feeding arrangement can be further reduced. Bending the four flaps upwards allows to better integrate the radiating element into an array of other radiating elements of lower height, for instance in a mMIMO array. In particular, a shadowing of the other radiating elements by the dual-polarized radiating element is diminished. Consequently, the squint of the other radiating elements of e.g. the mMIMO array is significantly minimized. In a further implementation form of the first aspect, the four flaps and the four dipole arms are formed by four separate integral elements, each integral element comprises one dipole arm and two sub-flaps and each flap is formed by two sub-flaps of adjacent integral elements.

Thereby the number of separate parts needed is reduced.

In further implementation form of the first aspect each integral element is soldered at its dipole arm with one soldering point to the PCB and at each of its two sub-flaps with one soldering point to the PCB .

Thereby, the mechanical stability of the radiating element is improved but also electrical continuity is provided. In a further implementation form of the first aspect, the feeding arrangement further comprises a metal sheet, wherein the four slots are cutouts in the metal sheet and also the four dipole arms are formed by the metal sheet.

The advantage of this implementation form is that additional flaps can be provided at the feeding arrangement. A PCB may be placed underneath the feeding arrangement in this implementation form.

In a further implementation form of the first aspect, the metal sheet comprises the four flaps, which are bent upwards or downwards with respect to the feeding arrangement plane and are arranged in between the four dipole arms, respectively.

The additional flaps help optimizing the performance of the radiating element, by introducing a further degree of freedom for the feeding arrangement shape. In particular, the radiating element can be optimized to work together with higher frequency radiating elements, which are arranged close when deployed in a multiband antenna. Also, as described above the flaps may extend the four slots electrically, so that the size of the feeding arrangement can be reduced without loss of slot length. In this way, the radiating elements can be integrated better with an array of other radiating elements, like of a mMIMO array. The shadowing caused by the radiating element on the radiating elements of such a mMIMO array is significantly reduced.

A second aspect of the present invention provides an antenna, comprising at least one dual-polarized radiation element according to the first aspect as such or any implementation form of the first aspect, wherein two dipole arms of the at least one dual- polarized radiating element extend along a longitudinal axis of the antenna, and two dipole arms of the at least one dual-polarized radiating element extend along a lateral axis of the antenna.

Due to the shape of the radiating element, and the specific arrangement of the one or more radiating elements on the antenna, a distance of the radiating elements to HB arrays can be minimized. Therefore, either the total width of the antenna can be minimized, or the number of HB arrays can be increased within an unchanged antenna width.

In an implementation form of the second aspect, each slot of the at least one dual- polarized radiating element extends at an angle of 45° with respect to the longitudinal axis of the antenna. Thus, 45° polarizations of the emitted radiation are obtained, as required in current antenna specifications.

In a further implementation form of the second aspect, the antenna comprises a plurality of dual-polarized radiating elements arranged along the longitudinal axis of the antenna in at least a first column, and a plurality of other radiating elements arranged along the longitudinal axis of the antenna in at least two second columns disposed side-by-side the at least first column, wherein the dipole arms of the dual-polarized radiating elements extend between the other radiating elements in the at least two second columns. In this way, the arrangement of the at least three columns can be made as dense as possible, so that the overall antenna width can be minimized. For example, this allows overlaying an array of the dual-polarized radiating elements with a mMIMO array of the other radiating elements. In a further implementation form of the second aspect, the antenna is configured for multiband operation, and the dual-polarized radiating elements are configured to radiate in a lower frequency band and the other radiating elements are configured to radiate in a higher frequency band.

That is, the radiating element is designed for working in an LB array. In this antenna, interference and shadowing on the higher frequency band radiating elements in HB arrays can be minimized. In a further implementation form of the first aspect, a plurality of dual-polarized radiating elements are interleaved with a plurality of other radiating elements that form a mMIMO array.

Accordingly, a mMIMO array is integrated with a passive antenna array. It is also possible to integrate a mMIMO array with different kinds of passive antenna arrays.

It has to be noted that all devices, elements, units and means described in the present application could be implemented in the software or hardware elements or any kind of combination thereof. All steps which are performed by the various entities described in the present application as well as the functionalities described to be performed by the various entities are intended to mean that the respective entity is adapted to or configured to perform the respective steps and functionalities. Even if, in the following description of specific embodiments, a specific functionality or step to be performed by external entities is not reflected in the description of a specific detailed element of that entity which performs that specific step or functionality, it should be clear for a skilled person that these methods and functionalities can be implemented in respective software or hardware elements, or any kind of combination thereof.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF DRAWINGS

The above-described aspects and implementation forms of the present invention will be explained in the following description of specific embodiments in relation to the enclosed drawings in which FIG. 1 shows a radiating element according to an embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 2 shows a radiating element according to an embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 3 compares current-density plots of a radiating element according to an embodiment of the present invention with a conventional square-shaped radiating element.

FIG. 4 shows a device according to an embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 5 shows the device of FIG. 4 in a side view. FIG. 6 shows a device according to an embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 7 shows a device according to an embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 8 shows a dielectric support structure for a device according to an embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 9 shows a device according to an embodiment of the present invention.

Fig. 10 shows a device according to an embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 11 shows a device according to an embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 12 shows a VSWR of a radiating element according to an embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 13 shows a radiation pattern of a radiating element according to an embodiment of the present invention. FIG. 14 shows a radiating element according to an embodiment of the present invention working in a multiband antenna architecture.

FIG. 15 shows an antenna according to an embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 16 shows a device according to an embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 17 shows a device according to an embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 18 shows a device according to an embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 19 shows parts of a device according to an embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 20 shows a device according to an embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 21 shows a radiating element according to an embodiment of the present invention working in a multiband antenna architecture.

FIG. 22 shows a radiating element according to an embodiment of the present invention working in a multiband antenna architecture.

FIG. 23 shows a radiating element according to an embodiment of the present invention working in a multiband antenna architecture integrated with a mMIMO array.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF EMBODIMENTS

FIG. 1 shows a dual-polarized radiating element 100 according to an embodiment of the present invention. The radiating element 100 comprises a feeding arrangement 101, and four dipole arms 103. It further exhibits a specific angular arrangement of its components.

The feeding arrangement 101 comprises four slots 102, which extend from a periphery towards a center of the feeding arrangement 101, and are arranged at regular angular intervals 104, which forms a first angular arrangement. In particular, two adjacent slots 102 in the first angular arrangement are arranged with an angle a in between. Further, each of the slots 102 extends from the periphery of the feeding arrangement 101 to a center portion of the feeding arrangement 101, preferably in a radial manner.

The four dipole arms 103 extend outwards from the feeding arrangement 101, and are arranged at regular angular intervals 105, which forms a second angular arrangement. In particular, two adjacent dipole arms 103 in the second angular arrangement are arranged with an angle β in between. A dipole arm 103 is a structural element extending from the feeding arrangement 101, with a length in extension direction that is larger than its width. Preferably, each of the dipole arms 103 has further a width that is smaller than the width of the feeding arrangement 101 side, from which it extends.

The second angular arrangement of the four dipole arms 103 is rotated 106 with respect to the first angular arrangement of the four slots 102, particularly by an angle Φ 106.

FIG. 2 shows another radiating element 100 according to an embodiment of the present invention, which builds on the radiating element 100 shown in FIG. 1. Identical elements in these two FIGs. 1 and 2 are provided with the same reference signs.

In particular, the radiating element 100 of FIG. 2 has the four slots 102 and four dipole arms 103, which are here respectively arranged at 90° intervals each. Further, the angular arrangements of the dipole arms 103 and the slots 102 are here rotated with respect to each other by 45°. Accordingly, the radiating element 100 extends with its dipole arms 103 mainly in two perpendicular directions (referred to as vertical and horizontal directions, respectively), but the polarizations of the radiating element 100 will lie at ±45° to these horizontal and vertical directions. FIG. 2 specifically shows that adjacently arranged slots 102 extend perpendicular to another, and that non-adjacently arranged slots 102 extend in line with another in this radiating element 100. Thus, two in line extending slot pairs are defined.

The two in line extending slot pairs define the two ±45° orthogonal polarizations of the dual-polarized radiating element 100, when it is operated. To this end, the radiating element 100 is fed in operation preferably like a conventional square dipole, whereby the four slots 102 of the feeding arrangement 101 are particularly fed symmetrically 2-by-2.

FIG. 2 also shows that each of the four slots 102 ends in a symmetrically bent, more or less U-shaped slot 201. The purpose of the four slots 201 is to extend the total length of each of the four slots 102, particularly for impedance matching purposes. Since the length of the four slots 102 cannot be extended further to a center portion of the feeding arrangement 101 (due to a lack of space in the middle), they can only be extended to the sides and backwards. In order to thereby maintain the symmetry, the bent slot 201 preferably have the same pattern at both sides of a slot 102. This leads to the symmetrically bent slots 201, preferably the shown U-shaped ones.

The feeding arrangement 101 shown in FIG. 2 comprises a PCB 205, and the four dipole arms 102 are soldered to the PCB 205 through soldering pins 206. The soldering pins 206 cross the PCB 205 from bottom to top. Capacitive coupling between the four dipole arms 102, and to the PCB 205, is possible. However, in this case the coupling area should be dimensioned accordingly, in order to achieve enough coupling. It should also be ensured that the distance between the dipole arms 102 and the PCB 205 is small and stable. Preferably, the dipole arms 102 do not extend only horizontally and vertically, but - as shown in FIG. 2 - also in the third perpendicular dimension, i.e. along a z-axis. In other words, at least a part 203 of each dipole arm 102 preferably extends upwards and/or downwards with respect to the feeding arrangement plane in which the feeding arrangement is arranged 101. In FIG. 2, each dipole arm 103 extends upwards in a part 203. By extending in the z-axis, the dipole arms 102 can be made longer electrically, without increasing their footprint. Furthermore, also a distance to ground can be increased, which reduces the capacitance to ground, and therefore increases the working bandwidth. Most importantly, all these advantages come for free, because the total height of the radiating element 100 does not need to be increased. This is explained below with respect to FIG. 4.

As further shown in FIG. 2, the dipole arms 102 are preferably terminated with flaps 204, which make the dipole arms 102 again electrically longer, without increasing their footprint. Preferably, as shown in FIG. 2, the flaps 204 are bent downwards. However, it is also possible to have upwards or downwards bent flaps 204, and even a bending of flaps 204 back towards the feeding arrangement 101 is possible. Examples of alternative flaps 204 will be provided with respect to other figures further below. Also described further below is an optional support 800 for the radiating element 100.

FIG. 3 shows a comparison of simulations of a current-density plot in a radiating element 100 (left side) according to FIG. 2, and in a conventional square-shaped radiating element 300 (right side). In the conventional radiating element 300, most of the current is concentrated in slots 302 of a feeding arrangement 301, whereas in the radiating element 100 the dipole is reshaped in such a way, that the current flows horizontally and vertically instead. The horizontal and vertical components of the current are equal, and the combination generates the ±45° polarizations. This advantageously allows to maximize the surface efficiency of the radiating element 100, which means that practically the whole surface of the radiating element 100, i.e. both of the feeding arrangement 101 and the dipole arms 103, contributes to the radiation. The amount of metallic surface is thus optimized. In the conventional square-shaped radiating element 300, there is a big surface amount that practically does not contribute to the radiation. Nevertheless, its presence inside, for instance, a multiband antenna, will create shadows on and interference with other radiating elements working in different, especially in higher frequency bands.

For the radiating element 100, the feeding of the slots 102 is, as for a conventional square dipole, but the current distribution corresponds more to a cross dipole. Therefore, advantages of both dipole kinds are combined, and the radiating element 100 has broadband characteristics, but at the same time a very small footprint.

FIG. 4 shows another radiating element 100 according to an embodiment of the present invention. The radiating element 100 of FIG. 4 builds on the radiating element 100 shown in FIG. 3. Identical elements in these two FIGs. 3 and 4 are provided with the same reference signs. FIG. 4 shows a radiating element 100 that further comprises a parasitic director 401, which is preferably arranged above the feeding arrangement 101. The parasitic director 401 further helps to achieve the required bandwidth, and at the same time to minimize the dimensions of the radiating element 100. FIG. 5 shows a side view of the radiating element 100 that is shown in FIG. 4. In FIG. 5, it shows that preferably the parasitic director 401 extends outwards from the feeding arrangement 101 less than each one of the four dipole arms 103. Thus, the parasitic director 401 does not increase the width and length of the radiating element 100 in the horizontal and vertical directions, respectively. Further, additionally or optionally, each dipole arm 103 may comprise, as shown in FIG. 5, an outer part 203 that extends upwards with respect to the feeding arrangement plane. Then, the parasitic director 401 is preferably arranged in a recess 501, which is defined within the four outer parts 203. Thus, the parasitic director 401 does also not increase the height of the radiating element 100. Further, as mentioned above, the dipole arms 103 are extended electrically in length due to the parts 203, however, preferably not above the above plane of the parasitic director 401. The height of the radiating element 100 of FIG.4 is, for example assuming an operating frequency band of 690 - 960 MHz, about 65 mm. That means, the height of the radiating element 100 is about 0.15λ at 690 MHz, and even below 0.15λ at 960 MHz, wherein λ is the wavelength corresponding to the respective frequencies. That is, it is a low profile radiating element 100.

FIG. 6 shows another radiating element 100 according to an embodiment of the present invention in a bottom view. Elements shown in FIG. 6 and identical elements in the previous figures, are provided with the same reference signs. The PCB 205 carrying the feeding arrangement 101 and the slots 102, 201 is visualized transparent in Fig 6, so that the crossings between the (feeding) transmission lines 601 and the slots 102 can be easily seen. FIG. 6 shows that the feeding arrangement 101 preferably further comprises four transmission lines 601, wherein each transmission line 601 crosses one of the four slots 102. The transmission lines 601 are preferably short-ended microstrip lines. The transmission lines 601 are particularly used for feeding the four slots 102, and are combined, in order to feed two non-adjacent slots 102 in an identical manner. This leads to the dual polarization of the radiating element 100. In FIG. 6, the combination of the four transmission lines 601 into two transmission lines 602 is carried out on a PCB arrangement 603. In particular, this PCB arrangement 603 extends from a bottom surface of the feeding arrangement 101. The PCB arrangement 603 may specifically extend orthogonally from the feeding arrangement 101. Because the four transmission lines 601 are combined into the two transmission lines 602, firstly a feeding signal can be transmitted from the PCB arrangement 603 to, for example, a PCB 205 of the feeding arrangement 101, and secondly the radiating element 100 can be grounded. For instance, a ground of the PCB arrangement 603 may be connected (e.g. soldered) to a ground of the feeding arrangement 101. The PCB arrangement 603 may also be connected to an additional PCB, which serves, for instance, as a transition between the radiating element 100 and a feeding network. Other implementations, like a direct connection to a phase shifter, or a direct connection to a coaxial cable, are also possible.

FIG. 7 shows another radiating element 100 according to an embodiment of the present invention, in which the transmission lines 601 are combined into transmission lines 702 in a different manner than in FIG. 6. Nevertheless, identical elements in the two FIGs. 6 and 6 are provided with the same reference signs. In particular, in FIG. 7 the combination of the four transmission lines 601 into two transmission lines 702 is carried out on the feeding arrangement 101, particularly, on the PCB 205 of the feeding arrangement 101. Thereby, the number of total soldering points can be reduced, since only two signal paths are present, instead of four. Furthermore, slots in the center of the PCB 205 can be divided into four small slots, which offers advantages in terms of isolation between different frequency bands.

FIG. 8 shows a dielectric support 800, onto which the radiating element 100 according to an embodiment of the present invention can be mounted. This is also indicated in the previous figures showing the radiating elements 100. The dielectric support 800 advantageously ensures mechanical stability of the radiating element 100, and ensures that a distance from the radiating element 100 to an antenna reflector, as well as a distance from a parasitic director 401 to the radiating element 100, is stably maintained. The dielectric support 800 may specifically comprise support feet 804, which also define a distance of the radiating element 100 to, for example, a feeding network or to the antenna reflector. Further, the support 800 can include support elements 802, in order to stably support the four dipole arms 102 of the radiating element 100. The support 800 can also comprise attachment means 803, which are configured to hold the feeding arrangement 101, and preferably the parasitic director 401. FIG. 9 shows a radiating element 100 according to an embodiment of the present invention. Elements in FIG. 9 and identical elements in the previous figures, are provided with the same reference signs. In FIG. 9 the feeding arrangement 101 of the radiating element 100 is made out of one single bent metal sheet together with the dipole arms 103, instead of comprising a PCB 205 and the four dipole arms 103 attached thereto. In particular, the feeding arrangement 101 comprises a metal sheet 901, wherein the four slots 102 are preferably cutouts in the metal sheet 901, and also the four dipole arms 103 are formed by the metal sheet 901. This has, for example, the advantage that the metal sheet 901 can be easily designed with four further flaps 902, which may be arranged in between the four dipole arms 102. The further flaps 902 may be bent upwards or downwards with respect to the feeding arrangement plane. Furthermore, the slots 102 may further extend along the flaps 902. Thereby, the extending slots 102 may actually divide each of the four flaps 902 into to two sub-flaps, as it is shown in FIG. 9. By means of the flaps 902, the slots 102 can be either be electrically extended without changing the size of the feeding arrangement 101, or the size of the feeding arrangement 101 can be reduced without reducing the length of the slots 102. In FIG. 9, the flaps 902 are bent downwards, and furthermore slightly back towards the feeding arrangement 101. However, the flaps 902 could also be bent upwards, in order to allow a better integration with an array of other radiating elements that are less high than the radiating element 100. Further, as shown in FIG. 9, also the dipole arms 103 can have additional bends, for instance, side flaps 903 for increasing the electrical width of the dipole arm 102. The side flaps 903 may be formed by bending the dipole arms 103 along their extension direction. The slots 102 can be fed by transmission lines on a PCB e.g. arranged below the metal sheet 901. In a further embodiment the slots 102 may be fed using a suitable cable feed e.g. arranged below the metal sheet 901.

FIG. 10 shows yet another radiating element 100 according to an embodiment of the present invention, which builds for instance on the radiating element 100 shown in FIG. 2. Identical elements in these two FIGs. 2 and 10 are provided with the same reference signs. In Fig. 10, the flaps 204 terminating the dipole arms 103 are not only bent downwards, but also back towards the feeding arrangement 101. This provides further electrical length to the dipole arms 103. Further, the optional parasitic capacitor 401 is shown to be arranged above the feeding arrangement 101, and particularly within the extension length of the four dipole arms 103. FIG. 11 shows another radiating element 100 according to an embodiment of the present invention, which builds on the radiating element 100 shown in FIG. 1. Identical elements in these two FIGs. 1 and 11 are provided with the same reference signs. Here, in Fig. 11, the dipole arms 103 extend outwards from the feeding arrangement 101 and are terminated by upward bent flaps 204, respectively, for increasing their electrical length. Also, the optional PCB arrangement 603 extending from the feeding arrangement 101 is shown. The PCB arrangement 603 may serve also as mechanical support, for instance, instead of the support 800.

Notably, with respect to the above-described radiating elements 100, the decision of whether terminating flaps 204 of the dipole arms 103 are bent upwards or downwards can be decided after a detailed optimization process of the radiating element 100. The decision can, for instance, depend on the arrangement of the radiating element 100 on an antenna, particularly together with other radiating elements arranged side-by-side the radiating element 100.

FIGs. 12 and 13 show RF performance of the radiating element 100 according to an embodiment of the present invention. Specifically, the Voltage Standing Wave Ratio (VSWR) and the radiation pattern of the radiating element 100 are shown. FIG. 12 specifically shows that the VSWR is below 16.5 dB (1.35: 1) from 690-960 MHz. FIG. 13 shows that the radiation pattern is symmetric, the 3dB beamwidth is around 65 degree and the Cross-polar discrimination is above 10 dB in the range from +60 to -60 degree. FIG. 14 shows, how the radiating element 100 according to an embodiment of the present invention can advantageously be arranged in a multiband antenna architecture. At both sides of the radiating element 100, there are provided other radiating elements 1400, for instance, configured to work in a higher frequency band like in HB arrays. Due to the shape of the radiating element 100, a distance between the other radiating elements 1400 on either side of the radiating element 100 can be minimized, namely by arranging the other radiating elements 1400 nested with the dipole arms 103 that extend from the feeding arrangement 101 of the radiating element 100. Therefore, either the dimensions of the multiband antenna architecture can be reduced, or the number of HB arrays within the same dimensions of the architecture can be increased. FIG. 15 shows in this respect an antenna 1500 according to an embodiment of the present invention. The antenna 1500 comprises three columns of radiating elements, each column extending along a longitudinal axis 1501 of the antenna 1500. In particular, the radiating elements 100 are arranged in a first column 1504, which is located in between and side- by-side two second columns 1503 comprising the other radiating elements 1400. Preferably, the second columns 1503 are HB arrays, and the first column 1504 is an LB array. FIG. 15 again shows, how two of the dipole arms 103 of each radiating element 100 extend between two of the other radiating elements 1400 in the HB arrays, i.e. they extend along a lateral axis 1502 of the antenna 1500. The other two dipole arms 103 of each radiating element 100 extend along the longitudinal axis 1501 of the antenna 1500. This allows a very dense packing of the respective HB and LB arrays. However, as also desired, the radiation polarizations defined by the slots 102 of the radiating elements 100 are still ±45° with respect to the longitudinal axis 1501 of the antenna 1500.

FIG. 16 shows another radiating element 100 according to an embodiment of the present invention, which builds on the radiating element 100 shown in FIG. 1. Identical elements in these two FIGs. 1 and 11 are provided with the same reference signs. Here, in FIG. 16, the radiating element comprises four further flaps 1600 extending from the feeding arrangement 101. In particular, the four flaps 1600 are connected to a PCB 205, and are preferably bent upwards with respect to the feeding arrangement plane. The four flaps 1600 are arranged in between the four dipole arms 103, respectively. Each one of the four slots 102 further extends along the flaps 1600, that means, it is electrically extended on one of the four flaps 1600. Thereby, each flap 1600 may be formed by two sub-flaps 1601 creating one slot extension, as it is shown in FIG. 16. Accordingly, the radiating element 1600 comprises in this case eight sub-flaps 1601.

The radiating element 100 shown in FIG. 16 is particularly advantageous for integrating an array of many such radiating elements 100 with another array of other radiating elements 1400, for instance with a mMIMO array. This is due to the fact that the shown modifications of the radiating element 100 improve the isolation and squint of closely spaced mMIMO radiating elements 1400 in such a mMIMO array. For instance, the size of the PCB 205 can be reduced without sacrificing length of the slots 102, which is enabled by the flaps 1600 allowing to electrically extend the slots 102. The flaps 1600 are preferably folded upwards, in order to minimize the squint of the lower-lying mMIMO array.

Furthermore, the size of the parasitic director 401 may also be minimized to minimize the radiating element 100 as a whole. Any loss of bandwidth that results from this size decrease of the parasitic director 401 can preferably be compensated by increasing at the same time the height of the radiating element 100. Additionally, in contrast to the parasitic director 401 shown in FIG. 4, 10 or 11, the shape of the parasitic director 401 may be changed. The parasitic director 401 shown in FIG. 16 does not have any flaps or arms extending from its central part. Preferably, the parasitic director 401 has an octagonal shape as it is shown in FIG. 16. Preferably, four sides of the octagonal parasitic director 401 are arranged at the same positions and at the same angular intervals of the second angular arrangement formed by the dipole arms 103. Preferably, the other four sides of the octagonal parasitic director 401 are arranged at the same positions and at the same angular intervals of the first angular arrangement formed by the four slots 102. Alternatively, however, the director 401 may also have a round shape, or a shape with more than eight sides.

The radiating element 100 of FIG. 16 can be further optimized for integration with a mMIMO array by having preferably dipole arms 103 that are folded downwardly. That is, at least a part 204 of each dipole arm 103 extends downwards with respect to the feeding arrangement plane. Optionally, the dipole arms 103 are further bent back towards the feeding arrangement 101. FIG. 17 shows the radiating element 100 of FIG. 16 in a top view. The first and second angular intervals 105 and 106 of the four slots 102 and the four dipole arms 103, respectively, are shown, and the above-described preferred shape and orientation of the preferred octagonal parasitic director 401 is illustrated. FIG. 18 shows a radiating element according to an embodiment of the present invention, which builds on the radiating element 100 shown in FIG. 16. The radiating element 100 in FIG. 18 is shown without a parasitic director 401. The four slots 102 can thus be seen well, here they are provided on the PCB 205, and it can be seen how they extend onto the four flaps 1600. It can also be seen that each flap 1600 is preferably soldered with two soldering points 206 to the PCB 205. In particular, in case of the flaps 1600 being formed by sub-flaps 1601 creating the slot extensions, each sub-flap 1601 is preferably soldered with one soldering point 206 to the PCB 205 as shown in FIG 18. Further, each dipole arm 103 is preferably soldered with one soldering point 206 to the PCB 205. These soldering points 206 improve the mechanical stability of the radiating element 100 and also electrical continuity is provided.

FIG. 19 shows exemplary parts of a radiating element 100 according to an embodiment of the present invention, for instance, parts of the radiating element 100 of FIG. 18. Here in Fig. 19, each one of the four flaps 1600 is formed by two-sub flaps 1601. Further, the four dipole arms 103 and the four flaps 1600 are formed by four separate integral elements 1900. Each integral element is formed by one dipole arm 103 and two (opposing) sub- flaps 1601, particularly with one sub-flap 1601 being arranged on either side of the dipole arm 103. For instance, two metallic sub-flaps 1601 with a metallic dipole arm 103 in- between them may form one integral element 1900. The four integral elements 1900 are arranged such in the radiating element 100 that their diploe arms 103 are arranged at the regular intervals 105 forming the second angular arrangement, preferably that their dipole arms 103 are arranged at 90° intervals. Further, the four integral elements 1900 are arranged such in the radiating element 100 that two sub-flaps 1601 of two adjacent integral elements 1900 form one flap 1600 and accordingly create an extension for one of the four slots 102. Such a particular arrangement of integral elements 1900 is shown in Fig. 19.

The four integral elements 1900 improve further the mechanical stability of the radiating element 100. Each integral element 1900 is preferably soldered at its dipole arm 103 with one soldering point 206 to the PCB 205, and at each of its two sub-flaps 1601 with one soldering point 206 to the PCB 205 for the best mechanical stability. However, it is also possible to form the four dipole arms 103 and the four flaps 1600, respectively, in a different manner. In particular, two sub-flaps 1601 forming one flap 1600 need not necessarily belong to two separate integral elements 1900, but could be formed by a single integral piece, like the flaps 902 shown in Fig. 9.

FIG. 20 shows a radiating element 100 according to an embodiment of the present invention, which builds on the radiating element shown in FIG 16. The further flaps 1600 and the extensions of the slots 102 on each of these flaps 1600 are well visible. Further, it can be seen that a PCB arrangement 603 may extend from the bottom surface of the feeding arrangement 101, particularly from the PCB 205. On the PCB arrangement 603 preferably four transmission lines 601 that are coming from the PCB 205 are combined into two transmission lines 602.

FIG. 21 shows a radiating element 100 according to an embodiment of the present invention, which builds on the radiating element 100 of FIG. 16, and is working in a multiband antenna architecture. The radiating element 100 is arranged such that its dipole arms 103 extend between the other radiating elements 1400 that are arranged in at least two columns. Preferably, these other radiating elements 1400 form a mMIMO array. It can be seen that due to the fact that the radiating elements 100 comprises the upwards bent flaps 1600, wherein the flaps 1600 electrically extend each of the four slots 102, the form factor of the radiating elements 100 can be made much smaller. Therefore, the other radiating elements 1400 are less shadowed. Accordingly, the squint of the mMIMO array and its radiating elements is minimized.

FIG. 22 shows a radiating element 100 according to an embodiment of the present invention working in a multiband antenna architecture with other radiating elements 1400. For purposes of illustration, a conventional, disc-shaped radiating element 2200 is shown in comparison to the radiating element 100, as it would be arranged if integrated with the array of other radiating elements 1400. It can be seen that the radiating element 100, due to its small footprint and its smarter space filling, results in a much lower shadowing effect on the other radiating elements 1400 than the conventional radiating element 2200.

FIG. 23 shows a plurality of radiating elements 100 according to embodiments of the present invention working in a multiband antenna architecture integrated with a mMIMO array. The radiating elements 100 are preferably arranged in at least one column along the longitudinal axis 1501 or direction of the antenna 1500. In case of more than one column, these columns are separated along the lateral axis 1502 or direction of the antenna 1500. The other radiating elements 1400 form the mMIMO array, which preferably includes the other radiating elements 1400 arranged in a plurality of columns. The radiating elements 100 may be arranged in gaps or in increased radiating element spacings or in vacant positions created by left-out radiating elements 100 in these columns, respectively. The radiating elements 100 are thus preferably interleaved with the plurality of other radiating elements 1400. Thereby, different types and/or sizes of dual-polarized radiating elements 100 can be used, for instance, to operate in different kinds of frequency bands in overlap with the mMIMO array.

In summary, the detailed description and the figures show, that and how the radiating element 100 is made low profile, but is at the same time provided with broadband characteristics. Furthermore, that and how the radiating element 100 has a shape that minimizes interference with other radiating elements 1400 arranged side-by-side in a multiband antenna 1500, and minimizes the width of the antenna 1500.

The present invention has been described in conjunction with various embodiments as examples as well as implementations. However, other variations can be understood and effected by those persons skilled in the art and practicing the claimed invention, from the studies of the drawings, this disclosure and the independent claims. In the claims as well as in the description the word "comprising" does not exclude other elements or steps and the indefinite article "a" or "an" does not exclude a plurality. A single element or other unit may fulfill the functions of several entities or items recited in the claims. The mere fact that certain measures are recited in the mutual different dependent claims does not indicate that a combination of these measures cannot be used in an advantageous implementation.