Reference board for 60GHz backhaul aimed at small cells
InterDigital Inc. and BluWireless Technology are planning to develop a reference board for 60GHz backhaul on small cell base stations. According to them, the proposed board would create a mesh network supporting links that deliver 2Gb/s over 150m and would be finished before June next year.
The work is part of a rising tide of efforts leveraging the IEEE 802.11ad standard defining 60GHz WiFi to serve base station backhaul and eventually access networks. Late last year, 60GHz startup Peraso announced its sampling a module for small cell backhaul based on .11ad, competing with existing products from Hittite Microwave and others expected from companies such as Infineon or Intel.
Carriers are moving to small cell base stations to deliver more network capacity in urban areas. Some believe 60GHz links could be the best way to tie such cells into the carrier network.
Some base stations already used fixed point-to-point 60GHz links for backhaul in products that cost thousands of dollars. The collaboration aims to enable products with mesh networking costing a few hundred dollars. The duo plans to include on the board electrically steerable phased array antennas from unnamed partners to enable beam steering in the mesh network.
InterDigital is supplying some mesh networking and media access controller technology as part of the collaboration. BluWireless is a chip intellectual property provider with physical layer technology for 60GHz.
The work on 60GHz backhaul is seen as a precursor to developing 60GHz access technologies for carriers as an upgrade for today's WiFi offload. Castor said one study concluded 60GHz nets could deliver 70Gbs/s per square kilometer, a hundred times more capacity than today's 3G and 4G links.
The downside is high capacity 60GHz links have significantly less range. That means engineers will have to upgrade WiFi handoff techniques to serve mobile users.
Longer term, the ITU standards group has commissioned a study of the feasibility of using different millimeter-wave bands for cellular access. Samsung already is studying use of the 28GHz band and Nokia Solutions and Networks is researching 70GHz bands.
The efforts are part of a broad set of next-generation wireless research efforts around the world at a time when 5G is still in an early definition stage. Indeed, the 60GHz effort is part of a set of 5G wireless networking projects for InterDigital, a wireless research and licensing company.
For its part, InterDigital's London office is taking the lead in 5G research along with academic partnerships it has struck with the University of Surrey and New York University.
One of the more interesting projects is exploring new ways of shaping waveforms to lower interference using today's OFDM modulation techniques. One startup recently announced it has an alternative technology addressing the issues with OFDM.
Separately, InterDigital is developing dynamic spectrum management techniques across traditional cellular bands, TV white spaces and anticipated 5G bands.
- Rick Merritt
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