Microwave Journal

Overview of the Wireless Technologies Industry

Sector overview by Geneviève Baudoin, EuWiT 2010 Conference Chair

September 16, 2010

Since the success of GSM, wireless communication has been one of Europe’s most active technological sectors. Over the last 10 years the worldwide growth of the mobile industry has exceeded all the predictions with more than 4.6 billion mobile phone subscribers in the world today.

We have moved from cellular phones dedicated to talk to ‘smart’ phones or communicating devices integrating different types of short range wireless connectivity (Bluetooth, WiFi, NFC), mobile TV and radio receivers, GPS receiver, multimedia sensors, various other sensors such as accelerometers, with sufficient computing power to support all the features of a personal digital assistant and technologies such as speech recognition, and 3G broadband wireless connection allowing for mobile internet and, of course, telephony.

In the past two or three years, we have seen the actual penetration of mobile broadband (3G and soon 4G) connections enabling mobile internet access and generating new mobile services and applications such as social networks or augmented reality. These applications necessitate outdoor on the move broadband links and indoor ultra-broadband connections to support future 3D television programmes, for example.

Wireless technology is also diffusing into new areas such as transport, environmental monitoring, healthcare, e-inclusion, machine to machine communication with the ‘Internet of things’ and the management of emergency situations. Most of the new applications rely on wireless communications associated with location technology and information providers. In the field of transport, the on-going normalization work on transport information – e.g. Service Interface for Real time Information (SIRI) – facilitates the development of multimodal information servers and traveller information applications on mobile devices.

Such evolution creates new challenges for research and innovation that cover the four main fields of the EuWiT conference: applications and standards, systems and signal processing, antennas and propagation, and key architectures and sub-systems for base stations and terminals.

For applications and standards, we can cite millimetre-wave mobile communications with low power consumption, autonomous communicating sensor networks and Body Area Networks. With regards to systems and signal processing the main trends are flexible and spectrum-aware radio access, cognitive radio and cooperative systems, and green energy aware wireless systems.

In the field of antennas and propagation, hot topics include the design of small antennas for personal communications devices in which many services in different frequency bands have to coexist, compact MIMO arrays, antenna and sheet-like waveguide for wearable and body-centric applications, electromagnetic modeling of complex environments such as the human body and modeling of non-stationary channels for vehicular communications.

MIMO and OFDM techniques have emerged as enabling technologies for 4G communication systems. They have also generated new challenges in terms of transmitter architectures with good efficiency and linearity, and in terms of integration of MIMO transceivers in mobile terminals. For base stations, a good compromise has been reached with Doherty power amplifiers using digital predistortion and GaN technology.

For mobile terminals, the evolution of wireless systems involves the introduction of more intelligence and dynamic reconfigurability in the transceiver in order to obtain more efficient spectral resource management and better transmission quality with low energy consumption. To take advantages of digital CMOS technology, RF analogue blocks are migrating to the digital domain (frequency synthesis, digital mixing and amplification for example) and digital signal processing is used for RF Impairment Correction and Built In Self Test (BIST).

Finally, the European Commission is playing a major role in the definition of the strategic research agenda, and supported in the 6th framework programme (FP6) work on ‘systems beyond 3G’, which led to the design of LTE technology. The first commercial products and services using LTE technology have just begun in Europe. Within the FP7 future networks research programme, the EC has already funded many projects organized into three clusters: Converged and Optical Networks, Radio Access and Spectrum, and Future Internet Technologies. The European Network of Excellence in Wireless Communications (NEWCOM++) gathers researchers from 17 major European institutions working on the Network of the Future, mainly on, ‘Ubiquitous network infrastructure and architectures’. One of the biggest projects launched by the ICT Call 4, is ARTIST 4G that intends to offer ubiquitous user experience in cellular mobile systems through innovations related to interference management and new relay concepts.