Researchers at the University of Essex are claiming a world record for the amount of computer data sent over a point-to-point wireless channel. The results achieved by the team from the department of electronic systems engineering are the equivalent of more than 162,000 phone calls or over 10,000 broadband Internet connections being made simultaneously. Such large capacity could revolutionize wireless Internet download times for many households and local businesses, small and large. While the techniques used by the Essex group do not fit exactly to the MultiBand Alliance template in the IEEE 802.155 ultra-wideband radio standardization process, they are important because they show that 10 Gigabit radio is feasible. The successful experiment at Essex demonstrates that a far greater capacity could be obtained from present generation wireless links, given appropriate standardization. The Essex department of electronic engineering is one of the strongest in the UK and currently has a grade 5 rating for carrying out research of national and international excellence. In 2001, researchers in the department achieved a world record for the amount of computer data sent over a single mode optical fiber, which won them a slot in the Guinness Book of Records. The last record-breaking results came at the end of a two-year project by MSc student Terry Quinlan, part of precursor work which will be further enhanced by a recently announced £1 M Higher Education Funding Council for England equipment award. Eventually, the mm-wave region could be used where even higher data rates may be possible. The head of the Essex project, professor Stuart Walker, said: “This achievement represents the culmination of many months of painstaking work. Multi-gigabit transmission systems of any sort require really detailed design and wireless is no exception. The original aim was just to investigate the performance of cheap flat patch antennas. We were pleasantly surprised by the initial results and kept on improving the experimental set-up. This is a research laboratory point-to-point experiment but there is worldwide commercial interest in getting multi-gigabit capacity from inexpensive wireless systems, either fixed or mobile.”
The Essex team succeeded in transmitting 10.4 Gigabits of data over a 60 m line-of-sight span; this distance being typical of the urban distribution point-to-home environment in the UK. Greater distances should be possible and are the subject of further investigation. The experiments were carried out using an array of three in-house designed patch antennas covering a band from just below 2 GHz up to just above 7 GHz. The 10.4 Gigabit data rate was comprised of concurrent 1.2, 1.6 and 2.4 Gigabit channels combined with polarization-based frequency reuse. A complete carrier and data synchronization subsystem was also constructed so largely error-free performance could be demonstrated. A paper on the basic subsystem design was presented at the IEE- and IEEE-sponsored Antennas and Propagation Conference at Loughborough University, UK, in April 2005.