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Technology finally makes millimeter waves practical to use, enabling the continued growth of wireless communications before we run out of spectrum.
Millimeter waves occupy the frequency spectrum from 30 GHz to 300 GHz. They’re found in the spectrum between microwaves (1 GHz to 30 GHz) and infrared (IR) waves, which is sometimes known as extremely high frequency (EHF). The wavelength (λ) is in the 1-mm to 10-mm range. At one time this part of the spectrum was essentially unused simply because few if any electronic components could generate or receive millimeter waves.
LTE and 4G cellular technology rollouts are limited by spectrum availability. LTE uses lots of bandwidth, and carriers only have so much spectrum. The cost of buying new spectrum is high, and the amount of spectrum is limited. Carriers are resorting to all sorts of maneuvers to get the spectrum to build LTE capacity and revenue.
One solution is to go to a TD-LTE (time division duplex) format that uses only half the spectrum of FDD-LTE (frequency division duplex). That doesn’t seem to be on the roadmap for many carriers, however. Small cells are a more popular solution. Microcells, picocells, and fem to cells are limited-range base stations that are being deployed to fill in the gaps in macro base station coverage. With limited range, these small cells will adopt frequency reuse techniques to provide more efficient use of the spectrum available.
The small-cell movement, also called heterogeneous networks or HetNets, may eventually become the fifth generation (5G) of cellular systems. But that’s not all. The small cells may use the millimeter-wave bands to provide that precious coveted spectrum needed for expansion. Recent research at New York University (NYU) has shown that the millimeter-wave bands can be used for cellular connections.
Using the 28-GHz and 38-GHz bands, NYU has demonstrated that even in a difficult urban environment like New York City, operation is possible. Highly directional antennas with automatic positioning and beam forming can make millimeter-wave frequencies work for cellular phones that demand great link reliability. Watch for more developments in this area.
Source: Associated Press