Wireless: The next generation

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  • Published: Jun 15, 2014
  • Author: David Bradley
  • Channels: Chemometrics & Informatics
thumbnail image: Wireless: The next generation

Millimetre by millimetre

Snapshot of millimetre wave dynamic beamforming. The algorithm selects the best beam pattern at both the base station and mobile terminal University of Bristol Communication Systems and Networks research group

The University of Bristol's Communication Systems and Networks research group has partnered with Bristol start-up Blu Wireless Technology (BWT) to develop the next generation of wireless technology, so-called 5G, which will use the millimetre wave radio range, 30 to 300 gigahertz (GHz). The development of ultrafast, wireless broadband that far outstrips current 3G and even 4G communications protocols will facilitate collaborative data networks that no longer rely on hardwired connections between laboratories and sites. 5G networks are anticipated to be in place by 2020. The researchers demonstrated their work at the Small Cells World Summit in London in June 2014.

Millimetre wave radios use much higher carrier frequencies than those in current systems, such as the emerging mobile broadband system 4G and the familiar wireless internet, Wi-Fi, system. The Bristol technology can transmit data about 50 times faster than the 2.4GHz Wi-Fi standard but at 60 GHz there is plenty of unallocated spectrum, which opens up the possibility of multi-Gigabit data rates for future mobile devices. The team points out that the challenge at such a high frequency and so high data rate is how to overcome the inevitable signal losses between transmitters and receivers. Viz: If transmit powers and antenna gains were equal, then at 60 GHz the received signal would be about a thousand times weaker than a Wi-Fi signal.

Avoiding buses

In order to surmount this obstacle, millimetre wave systems will have to electronically steer their high gain antennae to actually track users as they move within the network. The team has now carried out a first-phase public demonstration of how this might work in practice at a summit held at ExCel London. With backing from the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership Regional Growth Fund, the team has developed a virtual network simulator that can be used to test antenna beam steering that supports robust point-to-point connections where devices are up to 400 metres away. The team also demonstrated 5G mobile access with mobile tracking over 100 metres at multi-gigabit data rates.

In both cases beam forming is shown to overcome the detrimental effects of trees in the line of sight and even passing buses.


Andrew Nix, Professor of Wireless Communication Systems and Head of the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, explains: "Our sophisticated ray tracing tools have been combined with the University's high performance computing facilities to enable the rapid analysis of complex millimetre wave systems. In particular, our simulators combine detailed channel models with antenna arrays and beam tracking algorithms to dynamically determine user performance in a virtual network." The outdoor ray models developed by Nix were among the first to fully support MIMO (Multiple-Input Multiple-Output) communications and are well known for supporting whole city analysis, including illumination to and from airborne platforms. His indoor models are used extensively in testing and verification of domestic Wi-Fi routers. The team also presented details of the technology at the Small Cell World Summit and lobbied for a re-think on European regulations regarding outdoor 60 GHz networks.

Related Links

Summit, June 2014: "Small Cells World Summit 2014"

Article by David Bradley

The views represented in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of John Wiley and Sons, Ltd.

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