Millimeter-wave (mmWave) technology has become a staple in modern communication networks, which require high-speed, low-latency, and high-throughput connectivity. However, a key disadvantage of the technology is its limited penetration—a result of short wavelengths.
Conceptualized representation of mmWave-enabled 5G and 6G communication networks. Image used courtesy of Hong et al.
This article explores the role of mmWaves in 5G/6G technology developments and highlights some recent releases of mmWave technology-based solutions.
Importance of mmWave to 5G and 6G
Electromagnetic waves with wavelengths from 1 mm to 10 mm constitute mmWaves. Because of these small wavelengths, mmWave technology is useful for applications that require high frequencies ranging from 30 GHz to 300 GHz.
Wireless communication has dramatically evolved over the past several decades. Powered by the mobile communication infrastructure, the fifth-generation (5G) offers unprecedented low latency, ultra-fast data rates, and high spectral efficiency. In addition to 5G technology, mmWave may also usher in 6G technology for data-hungry applications, such as artificial intelligence and machine learning.
Electromagnetic frequency spectrum. Image used courtesy of Analog Devices
To facilitate 5G and 6G rollout, many companies are developing mmWave-enabling technologies including:
- New system architectures for beamforming arrays
- Basestation and user terminal antennas
- Beamforming integrated circuits
- System measurement and calibration
- Multichannel beamforming chips
- Channel characterization
Since 6G requires a higher level of integration for physical transceiver channels, it will also require new mmWave hardware for higher operational flexibility and functionality.
Mediatek Releases mmWave SoC for 5G Smartphones
On May 23, 2022, MediaTek showcased new developments in mmWave technology through its Dimensity 1050 system-on-chip (SoC). MediaTek claims the SoC is one of the industry’s first mmWave 5G chipsets for powering next-gen 5G smartphones with improved displays, power efficiency, gaming, and connectivity.
Three features of MediaTek’s Dimensity 1050 include 5G connectivity, faster speed for greater reach, and true dual 5G. Dimensity 1050 is said to offer dual mmWave and sub-6GHz connectivity to improve speeds up to 4.6 Gbps. MediaTek says users can achieve constant 5G speeds from more than one SIM connection with Dimensity 1050’s True Dual 5G SIM (5G SA + 5G SA) and improved voice and video call experience through Voice over New Radio (VoNR).
Keysight Unveils Vector Signal Generator for mmWave
Another company with a recent announcement on mmWave technology is Keysight Technologies with its M9484C VXG vector signal generator. On April 26, 2022, Keysight released a new addition to its VXG series portfolio that harnesses the capabilities of the mmWave spectrum to improve a wide range of applications, including 5G mobile communications, 6G research, radar, and satellite communications.
Keysight asserts that with the aid of the M9484C VXG signal generator, designers can achieve highly-accurate, repeatable multichannel measurements using a single instrument, significantly minimizing test system complexities.
M9484C VXG vector signal generator. Image used courtesy of Keysight Technologies
Because the M9484C VXG vector signal generator is said to offer high-frequency, wide-channel bandwidth signal capabilities in multi-coherent channels, engineers may:
- Work with designs that meet evolving standard test requirements
- Simplify complex calibration routines and measurement setups
- Eliminate signal impairment
- Deliver advanced signal fidelity for wideband signal generation
Peraso and Jorjin Announce mmWave AR
In collaboration with Peraso, Jorjin recently released its J7EF 3D and AR smart glasses for several applications, including education and AR marketing.
The J7EF 3D and AR smart glasses. Image used courtesy of Jorjin
The solution leverages mmWave technology from the Peraso X130 mmWave chipset (which is IEEE802.11ad compliant) to ensure low latency, minimized channel interference, and high throughput data communication between devices. The J7EF solution is designed for 5G extended reality (XR) smart showrooms, demonstrating the capabilities of mmWave technology in diverse connectivity applications.
Benefits and Limitations of mmWave Technology
Companies are pushing to incorporate mmWave into new designs for its many perks: wide bandwidth, low latency, high data rates, and increased resolution. For example, communication applications like 5G New Radio (NR) and satellites particularly benefit from mmWave’s wide bandwidth and higher peak data rates. These features allow communication technology to seamlessly handle multiple simultaneous communication channels, improving the ability to send more data in a single communication.
System diagram of a 5G base station. Image used courtesy of Hong et al.
mmWaves offer low-latency data transmission, delivering communication within a shorter amount of time and boosting performance for time-sensitive applications, such as wireless augmented or virtual reality (AR/VR), industrial automation, and automated driving systems. They can also help radars accurately measure distance and velocity and yield high-resolution images for closely-spaced objects.
mmWave technology is not without its drawbacks, however. The shorter wavelengths are limited in their penetration depths, limiting mmWave to line-of-sight operations. While electromagnetic waves with longer wavelengths depend on direct (specular) reflected power to transmit around obstacles, mmWaves often diffuse reflections, which sends the waves in several directions and minimizes the accuracy of data transmission.