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60GHz WiGig sets path for 5G success

Posted: 12 Jan 2015     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:WiGig  5G  cellular protocol  WiFi  LAN 

Although 5G is not yet described by any telecommunications standardisation body, developments leading to the creation of the next-generation mobile standard is underway. For wireless chip and system makers who are working on solutions for the evolving 5G cellular standard, a good place to start would be WiGig. Unlike its predecessors, 5G will not conceive a new cellular protocol. Instead, it will align a variety of cellular and wireless local-area networking (LAN) standards to allow them to work synergistically.

The vision for 5G is to use heterogeneous networking (het-net), combining cellular and wireless LAN protocols. The combination will maximise effective bandwidth by switching between these systems based on channel availability at the local level. The het-net approach is so important to the evolution of 5G that support for it is being built into upgrades for the existing 4G infrastructure.

The key protocol changes envisaged for 5G focus on situations where bandwidth and latency challenges are at their most extreme, in the urban environment where the bulk of users will expect to be able to transfer data at high speeds.

Potential seen for mm-wave

One of the options being explored for urban communications is to make use of the millimetre-wave (mm-wave) RF spectrum between 10-100GHz. Not only is this block of spectrum underused, it offers opportunities for channels with much higher bandwidths than are available in the sub-5GHz region employed for 2G, 3G and 4G. Bandwidth of up to 9GHz has been allocated for the 60GHz range for use by the WiGig wireless LAN standard, making WiGig an excellent candidate for investigation of the potential of mm-wave transmission.

A key aspect of the mm-wave region is that transmissions have shorter range than the frequencies used for cellular because of air and water absorption. The signals are also more sensitive to antenna alignment.

In the high-density urban environment, absorption not only becomes far less of an issue, the combination of absorption and the directivity of the signals become key advantages. Using technologies such as electronic beam-forming with multiple antennas, already a part of the WiGig standard, the signal can be localised, reducing the interference between multiple users and base stations. This, in turn, allows base stations to be situated closer together to make better use of the high-bandwidth backhaul network.

The WiFi standards from which WiGig was derived have shown over the past two decades huge potential to stretch technologies by providing a market that supports further rapid innovation. In its current form, WiGig uses a 4x4 array of antennas to provide beam-forming. One possible extension of WiGig is to move to massive multiple-input, multiple-output (MIMO) antenna arrays. These will allow system designers to exploit the energy-saving and signal-quality improvement advantages of the technology over conventional single-antenna structures.

A further advantage of WiGig is that it is a low-latency protocol, with round-trip delays through the media-access channel of hundreds of microseconds, far below the 1ms latency demanded of 5G. This will allow WiGig to act as one member of the collection of protocols that make up 5G.

Any mm-wave frequencies selected for 5G cellular likely will be used in combination with 60GHz. By working on 60GHz and WiGig, engineers can get a head start on 5G with access to a growing market among consumers and opportunity to investigate advanced MIMO and signal-processing techniques. They can be confident the work will filter into the final 5G landscape.

- Mark Barrett
  EE Times

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