Millimetre Wave Spectrum (MMWave) for 5G

August 22, 2017

Millimetre wavelengths (MMWave, also known as ‘extremely high frequency’ – EHF, and ‘very high frequency’ – VHF), is the region of electromagnetic spectrum between 30 and 300GHz from 10 millimetres (0.4 inches) to 1 millimetre (0.04 inches) between microwave and infrared waves, that is being increasingly discussed as a potential candidate for supply of 5G services.

This high frequency spectrum would allow for the management of greater data usage and data transmission (with rates of up to 10GBps).

Traditionally however, these frequencies were overlooked as they were seen as unsuitable for outdoor broadband due to their short wavelengths that mean they are highly susceptible to blockages from walls and buildings as well as suffering from atmospheric attenuation.

Nevertheless, with the arrival of new technologies such as Massive MIMO, small cells and beamforming as well as the ability to integrate with 4G LTE, the appeal of the use of MMWaves is increasing.

Although MMWaves require line-of-sight transmission and can only reach a range of approximately 1km, new technologies are able to utilise them in small, more densely packed communications networks. This is achieved by seamlessly ‘passing’ a connection from one cell to another, using beamforming and beam tracking technologies as a user moves through an NLOS (non-line-of-sight) environment.

Rather than blanketing an area with ‘connectivity’, the characteristics of MMWaves can be used to direct precisely targeted connections between multiple cells and a single device.

Together with the ability to integrate 5G with 4G LTE services, carriers will be able to ensure robust and sustained mobile broadband communications that balance the demand for high bandwidth services with the day-to-day user connectivity requirements.

At some point in the next 5 to 10 years we are likely to face heavy congestion in wireless networks. Now is the time to find efficient solutions to this problem. The bridge from 4G to 5G will be dramatic in terms of the exponential growth in data rates and latency.

With these requirements in mind, the millimetre wave spectrum’s increased bandwidth would provide a solution to provide increased data rate and better quality of the received signal. In the past, transitioning to the next generation of wireless technology has taken roughly a decade. Nothing so far seems to indicate this transition will be faster. However, the pace of technology developments is only increasing as time goes on.

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