Towards a 5G future with TWEETHER
A European consortium of engineers and scientists has demonstrated real-world point-to-multipoint transmission of data within the part of the wireless frequency spectrum known as millimetre wave, or W-band, which is between 92–95 GHz.
This was the first significant breakthrough of the European Commission Horizon 2020 TWEETHER project, headed by Lancaster University, which is producing the future communication ‘arteries’ of 5G. Conducted at the Universitat Politecnica de Valencia (UPV), Spain, the field test came after more than three years of work designing cutting-edge components and systems to enable a point-to-multipoint wireless system above 90 GHz.
Millimetre waves are a part of the frequency spectrum that is currently unused, but appear very promising, from the wide frequency bands available, for supporting high data rates. Challenges with wireless communication data volumes and speeds can only be met by exploiting millimetre waves and TWEETHER is addressing these technical hurdles.
“The development of European technology at millimetre wave aims to solve two major challenges of modern communications — a way to wirelessly transmit to and from a grid of new 5G small cells networks, and the digital divide that affects millions of houses without broadband in areas where the fibre cannot be deployed,” said Project Coordinator Professor Claudio Paoloni from Lancaster University.
“It has been an emotional moment to see the TWEETHER equipment installed on the masts of the Universitat Politecnica de Valencia and watch the monitor showing the first data transmitted.”
The TWEETHER millimetre wave technology, when it becomes available to mobile network providers, will be deployed as part of future 5G networks, enabling up to 100 times faster internet connections than 4G currently offers.
The project partners have developed radio technology and manufactured the circuits and amplifier devices with a similar capacity to that of optic fibre — without requiring cables. According to the tests carried out, the technology enabled the transmission of up to 10 Gbps over a large area to feed base stations for mobile networks or wireless fixed access broadband.
“A travelling wave amplifier has been designed during this European initiative, which would allow for the proper functioning of the 5G communication infrastructure in the millimetric wave bands across long distances,” said Roberto Llorente, Deputy Director of the UPV’s Centre of Nanophotonic Technology.
With the results of this project, companies will be able to offer ubiquitous access to broadband internet. Users will have greater bandwidth, coverage and capacity than that offered by current wireless networks, which will make it possible to enjoy services of high added value and with great quality, both when emitting and receiving information.
“To set a day-to-day example, with this technology, cuts or pixelated images during video calls will disappear, and we will be able to enjoy 4K contents on our mobile devices,” said Llorente.
The 5G infrastructure will also make it possible to offer services that require a very low latency for advanced applications — such as connected vehicles, for example, which don’t require large amounts of data, but where it is essential for that data to move quickly from one vehicle to another in the case of an emergency.
“Our technology guarantees these levels of latency due to its point-to-multipoint configuration, ensuring that — if there is an accident, for example — other vehicles in close cells will have that information almost instantly,” said Llorente.
Furthermore, TWEETHER will also help decrease the digital divide, which leads to millions of users worldwide — mainly in suburban or rural residential areas where optic fibre cannot be deployed — not having access to advanced services over the internet. The technology developed in the project allows the establishment of wireless coverage in broad geographical areas in a cost-effective way and in a matter of days.
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