Engineering 101

Low-power, Low-cost 5G on the Horizon?

By Dawn Allcot


Analysts predict that 31 billion Internet of Things (IoT) devices will be in use by 2025. But with so many devices using bandwidth on the world’s wireless networks, cheaper, faster, and more efficient wireless connectivity will be needed. Today’s WiFi and cellular networks won’t be able to accommodate so many devices.

Enter 5G, the next generation of wireless technology. And while it’s already being deployed in many areas of the world, one of the technologies that power it, called Millimeter wave (mmWave) requires hardware that is both pricey and power-hungry. Not good when you’re talking about connecting 31 billion—or more—devices, including mission-critical medical technology and autonomous vehicles.

The mmWave network offers multi-gigahertz of unlicensed bandwidth, which is more than 200 times that allocated to today’s WiFi and cellular networks. If experts could find a way to reduce the cost and power consumption of the mmWave network, it could be the perfect method to power billions of IoT devices without lag or buffering.

Now, researchers at the University of Waterloo have done exactly that, developing a novel mmWave network called mmX. The new mmX network will provide a much higher bitrate than WiFi or Bluetooth, with reduced power consumption.

“mmX will not only improve our WiFi and wireless experience, as we will receive much faster internet connectivity for all IoT devices, but it can also be used in applications such as virtual reality, autonomous cars, data centers and wireless cellular networks,” said Ali Abedi, a postdoctoral fellow at Waterloo’s David R. Cheriton School of Computer Science. “Any sensor you have in your home, which traditionally used WiFi and lower frequency can now communicate using high-speed millimeter-wave networks.

“Autonomous cars are also going to use a huge number of sensors in them which will be connected through the wire; now you can make all of them wireless and more reliable.”

Source: University of Waterloo

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