60GHz technology for WiGig and 5G applications

The 5th generation of mobile networks (or 5G) promise higher data rates and lower latency, and will support a higher density of mobile broadband users than the current 4G standards. Wireless communication radios that operate at frequencies around 60GHz have large potential to support these 5G communication networks.

There are different 60GHz transceiver prototypes available in the industry today which are suitable for both indoor WiGig applications (such as video distribution in the home) and outdoor 5G applications (e.g. fixed wireless access). Researchers are also developing ATTO cell technology for data-intensive industrial applications that require even higher bitrates, higher density and lower latency than what 5G can offer.

Today’s wireless indoor applications typically use Wi-Fi compliant devices to support wireless network connectivity. These devices are based on the IEEE 802.11 standards and deploy the 2.4 and 5GHz radio bands. But the next generation of wireless technologies is expected to face spectrum scarcity in the frequency band below 10GHz.

This is due to the exploding number of users and products, and to the increasing number of data-intensive applications running on today’s consumer electronic products. On top of that, a whole range of new applications comes in sight, including video distribution in the home, fast exchange of GBytes of data between tablets and smartphones, immersive gaming and wireless docking of laptops. To cope with the upcoming spectrum scarcity, bandwidth is being sought at millimeter-wave frequencies – ranging from 24 to 100GHz. An interesting option is to use the 57-66GHz unlicensed band which is available throughout the world.

This band promises speeds of multi-Gb/s with low latency, in line with the 5G requirements. Frequencies around 60GHz however come with challenging propagation characteristics, due to the significant absorption of the signals by oxygen and other materials. On the plus side, these frequencies consequently allow a spatial reuse by using highly directed beams. In other words: two or more neighboring links can share the same frequency channel at the same time, without signal interference. But the propagation attenuation also comes with a downside, as it results in high path loss and signal blockage – limiting the wireless propagation distance to about 500 – 1000m.

Access to the uncongested 60GHz band is enabled by the IEEE 802.11ad standard, also known as WiGig®. WiGig® is a new standard for indoor scenarios, expanding the Wi-Fi experience for virtual reality, multimedia streaming, gaming, wireless docking, etc.

Article submitted by Dr. Kelechi Anyikude