SAN JOSE, Calif. — WiFi standards in the works are preparing the hotspot technology for roles that range from 5G cellular backhaul to networking the Internet of Things, say two researchers working in the area. The efforts promise enhanced versions of WiFi running from 900 MHz to 60 GHz.
The so-called NG60 study group has had just two meetings so far and may require as much as two years to complete its first draft standard. It is working on an upgraded version of the 60 GHz version of WiFi, 802.11ad, capable of delivering 20 Gbit/s over a very short range.
Ultimately, NG60 also may include hardware support for mesh networks that could deliver a Gbit/s over 200 to 400 meters for backhaul links on small-cell base stations. Researchers at InterDigital Inc. are building a prototype of a 60 GHz directional mesh architecture using electronically steered phased array antennas that could support up to five hops.
“We’re now working on a software layer above the media access controller, but if the mesh can move to lower levels it becomes more efficient,” says Monisha Ghosh, a principal engineer at InterDigital who was recently named an IEEE fellow for her work in wireless.
A handful of 60 GHz chip vendors already are pursuing cellular backhaul as one application for chips based on the current 802.11ad standard. The NG60 work could enable a new version of chips supporting longer distances, higher data rates, and other new features.
Researchers at InterDigital and elsewhere are also developing simulations of channel models at millimeter wave frequencies such as 60 GHz. The efforts help pave the way for licensed and unlicensed 5G cellular services, which are expected to use still undetermined bands between 28 and 300 GHz.
“The spectrum today below 6 GHz lacks the bandwidth needed for the thousand-fold improvements people want,” says Ghosh.
The US Federal Communications Commission has put out notices of inquiry about how it may handle millimeter wave bands. An NOI on opening up the 64 to 71 GHz band for unlicensed uses for technologies such as WiFi has sparked particular interest.
“That would be a huge boon for WiFi… expanding by another 7 GHz, essentially doubling upper band use of WiFi,” notes Ghosh.
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