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5G mmWave – small antennas but a giant leap for mankind

Twitter: @v_held

Revolution of communications & radio technology

Radio spectrum is the lifeblood of the cellular industry and it is a scarce resource as well. Traffic growth and increasing demand for throughput have been mainly met by making the usage of existing spectrum more efficient over time. Thus far we have limited ourselves to only using spectrum up to 6GHz, and not considering the spectrum above at all.

But demand for wireless data traffic continues to grow probably 10,000 fold within the next 20 years. When traffic density exceeds certain thresholds however, sticking with only the existing spectrum will become both technically impossible and definitely won’t make economic sense. By their nature, high frequencies provide much more bandwidth than the spectrum below the 6 GHz currently being used for mobile communication, and mmWave is more amenable to small cell deployments. A new Nokia whitepaper: The 5G mmWave revolution explains the usage of mmWave spectrum in practical 5G networks.

Small antennas, huge capacity

The higher frequencies have several bands available to provide huge capacity and throughput. Nokia has proven that it is possible to take advantage of 1–2 GHz bandwidth in the mmWave band (approximately 30–100 GHz). Substantial Nokia research, including channel measurements, Proof of Concept verifications and live trials with key operators shows that these bands can be used for access and backhaul to help support large volumes of small cell traffic.
Antenna size is inversely proportional to the frequency, so thanks to the higher frequencies of mmWave spectrum, high-dimension antenna arrays can be deployed in a very compact manner.

Higher bands have relatively large bandwidths, but also greater path losses. Massive MIMO is an effective way to compensate path loss using high beamforming gain as well as to increase peak data rate by multi-stream transmission. For very high frequency bands the antennas focus the transmitted energy towards the receiver to overcome increased path loss caused by radio propagation. In plain language: the network follows the user.


Pioneering work, mature result

Lab prototypes are one thing, but trial systems running on commercial platforms bringing 5G closer to commercial reality are a much more complicated undertaking. Nokia has demonstrated the world’s first 5G radio commercial product – the AirScale/AirFrame demo @15 GHz, which was also showcased at Mobile World Congress ‘16. The Proof of Concept system will be available @28 GHz too, using Massive MIMO and beamforming, including phased array technology. At 5G World 2016 in London, the World’s first 5G-ready network was demonstrated; multiple field trials are planned worldwide in the 2016–17 time frame with the top 32 operators based on AirScale/AirFrame products.

Nokia Bell Labs is pushing the borders of spectral efficiency further to get the most capacity out of the spectrum. It successfully demonstrated spectral efficiency as high as 100 bps/Hz in the 28 GHz millimeter waveband achieving a peak transmission rate of more than 50 Gbps. This will make wireless transmission of large data files far more economical than what is currently achievable.

We have more to share on our 5G page.

Share your thoughts on this topic by replying below – or join the Twitter discussion with @nokianetworks using #5G

Stay tuned to this blog channel for upcoming 5G news including IHS Technology’s survey results on who’s leading 5G strategies and a preview of our next 5G demo which will debut in January at CES 2017 in Las Vegas.

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Volker Held

About Volker Held

At Nokia, Volker is combining the technology and business side of innovation. He is a 5G veteran and the co-author of the famous 5G triangle with the three 5G use cases. Volker was leading Nokia’s 5G market development activities for several years. Right from the early days of 5G he has been advocating for the transformative benefits of the technology for enterprises.

Tweet me at @v_held

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