Pat Hindle, MWJ Editor
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Pat Hindle is responsible for editorial content, article review and special industry reporting for Microwave Journal magazine and its web site in addition to social media and special digital projects. Prior to joining the Journal, Mr. Hindle held various technical and marketing positions throughout New England, including Marketing Communications Manager at M/A-COM (Tyco Electronics), Product/QA Manager at Alpha Industries (Skyworks), Program Manager at Raytheon and Project Manager/Quality Engineer at MIT. Mr. Hindle graduated from Northeastern University - Graduate School of Business Administration and holds a BS degree from Cornell University in Materials Science Engineering.

Interview with Prof. Theodore (Ted) Rappaport of NYU WIRELESS

Update on 5G mmWave Technology Being Deployed & Potential for 6G

February 22, 2019

Verizon deployed mmWave fixed wireless access service late last year in Sacramento (CA) as one of their pilot cities. Recently, Earl Lum surveyed the location of most of the access points and determined their coverage would be marginal and thus results were probably not that great due to the location of many of them – what have you heard?

Fixed wireless access results are good and distances realized are better than thought, especially in LOS scenarios – several Gbps speeds are being realized over greater distances than originally contemplated. However, results are site specific so positioning of units is a key to success. If they are too low or blocked, the results will be poor. It will be important to model the environment and use scattering as a benefit to transmission.

The FCC has made the rules more beneficial to carriers to deploy small cells with less hoops to jump through to field units in cities and faster decisions to speed deployment – what are you seeing on that front?

There is a tradeoff between capacity and coverage – deploying more small cells will result in better overall results for the consumer. To achieve both with 5G mmWave units, we will need to deploy a large number of small cells to get full coverage. Zoning, legal and financial holdups have slowed deployment in the US compared to other countries such as China and South Korea. So the FCC has stepped in to help the US maintain a level playing field so the US remains competitive.

How about the recent FCC auctions for more frequency bands?

Auction 101 (28 GHz band) and 102 (24 GHz) have released wide swaths of mmWave frequencies to deploy 5G. According to the FCC web site, Auction 101 offered 3,072 Upper Microwave Flexible Use Service licenses in the 28 GHz band, and the licenses will be county-based. The 28 GHz band will be licensed as two 425-MHz blocks (27.500 – 27.925 GHz and 27.925 – 28.350 GHz). For each county in which 28 GHz licenses will be available for auction, both blocks of the 28 GHz band will be available.

Auction 102 offered 2,909 Upper Microwave Flexible Use Service licenses in the 24 GHz band, and the licenses will be based on PEAs. The lower segment of the 24 GHz band (24.25–24.45 GHz) will be licensed as two 100-MHz blocks, while the upper segment (24.75–25.25 GHz) will be licensed as five 100-MHz blocks, with four 100-MHz blocks and one 75-MHz block offered in one PEA and only four blocks in three other PEAs.

T-Mobile claims that true 5G would need to be a combination of low, mid and high band frequencies in various environments but Verizon and AT&T might not have that many holdings in the low band, do you see that to be the case?

AT&T and Verizon have many different bands available including low band, so I don’t see that as a problem for those two large carriers. The T-Mobile/Sprint merger would help both of them since they need the higher bands in order to be successful over the long run, so I think the merger would be a benefit to the industry and consumers.

What 5G applications do you see happening other than being able to download videos and files faster?

There are applications and capabilities that we have not even thought of that will be developed once we have this kind of wide bandwidth available. AR/VR, location specific data, spatial sensing with our phones, etc. will enable new applications and products that rely on the faster download speeds. I call a new application the “Information Shower,” which is the idea that the bandwidth is so great that you can continuously download the content and don’t have to save it locally because the download speeds are so fast. This will enable new cloud-based services that we have not dreamed of yet. Autonomous vehicles will come later, but I think more near term will be things enabled by wide bandwidth.

With NYU WIRELESS having the unique association with the NYU Medical School to develop 5G applications, what do you see happening now in that area?

The bandwidth of 5G will allow autonomous vehicles and robots to be utilized for human assistance. A professor, JR Rizzo at NYU WIRELESS and our med school is looking into autonomous units helping visually impaired people navigate around their environment and assist in other actions. We have other colleagues who are looking at robotic applications and their capabilities supported by 5G speeds. The smart phone has already replaced the phone, camera, daily planner, flashlight, and more. In the future, it might become the visually impaired person’s assistant with robots transmitting the data to the phone and guiding people and appliances around. There are certainly many more other applications for drones and other autonomous vehicles, as well as robotic controls, that could and will be developed. The smart phone could see around corners, through walls and in the dark by using mmWaves as imaging radar. The possibilities are endless!

I have seen some work now going on with 6G, what do you see in that area?

NYU WIRELESS is doing the early work for 6G, as we continue to perform channel sounding and modeling at 140 GHz, like we did earlier in the 28, 39 and 73 GHz frequency bands years ago for 5G. Samsung and Nokia Bell Labs are also doing 100+ GHz work and making good progress there. In Oct. 2018, NYU WIRELESS became the first academic institution to join the mmWave Coalition, a group whose mission is to advocate for the use of radio frequencies above 95 GHz in the U.S. The Coalition, made up of leading technology companies in addition to NYU WIRELESS, is working with U.S. and international government and regulatory bodies to eliminate hurdles to using these frequencies.  You just saw the FCC respond with a proposal to open up more than 21 GHz of spectrum above 95 GHz – this is the very beginning of the 6G era. This is likely to be part of the buzz at the Mobile World Congress, and is likely due in part to the efforts of the mmWave coalition, as well as a forward-looking view of wireless inside Washington (note President Trump’s tweet yesterday about 5G and 6G in this Wired article).

Availability of this new spectrum above 95 GHz will open up much needed broadband service for new applications for medical imaging, spectroscopy, new massively broadband IoT, sensing, communications, and “wireless fiber” links in rural areas, ensuring that the U.S. remains competitive in the marketplace as 5G and 6G applications roll out. Our early work shows that weather and propagation impairments are not very different from today’s mmWave all the way up to 400 GHz, we have a lot of spectrum that can be used for the future of wireless.

Members of the mmWave Coalition have several goals, which are listed on their web site as:

  • Create large, contiguous blocks of spectrum by proposing service rules that span existing Fixed Service and Mobile Service bands, and present passive bands, facilitating speeds comparable with fiber optic technology.
  • Update present U.S. Allocation Table US246 to enable controlled sharing of passive above 90 GHz spectrum under strict conditions that protect the passive uses of them, which is much easier at these frequencies than at lower bands
  • Extend quantitative RF safety limits above present 100 GHz to decrease regulatory uncertainty

The coalition is looking for more members who want to help pursue spectrum development that will support new use cases that are not yet imagined or developed.


Professor Theodore Rappaport is the founding director of NYU WIRELESS, and a pioneer in wireless communications.

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