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5G breakthrough with new millimeter wave transmission record

Scientists in Germany broke a new millimeter wave transmission record, opening new possibilities for 5G.

The Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Solid State Physics IAF in Freiburg, Germany, has set a new world record in millimeter wave transmission, transmitting at a data rate of 6 Gigabit per second (Gbit/s) over a distance of 36.7 kilometers, on a stretch between Cologne and Wachtberg. This is equivalent to transmitting the contents of a conventional DVD in under ten seconds, beating today’s fastest transmissions by a factor of ten. 

A breakthrough for satellite-to-earth transmissions, the new record could also have wide-ranging implications for future 5G networks. The Fraunhofer Institute is in fact already in talks with vendors. ”We are in discussion with a couple of companies in Europe and Asia to bring this technology to the market,” Dr. Michael Schlechtweg, head of business unit High Frequency Electronics at the Fraunhofer Institute, told Industrial IoT 5G Insights. 

The innovation can be applied in multiple areas, including 5G networks, the next generation of satellite communication, rural broadband, as a cost-effective replacement for deployment of optical fiber and ad-hoc networks or in future data-intensive Industry 4.0 applications.

The project, called ACCESS (Advanced E Band Satellite Link Studies), is a collaboration between researchers from the Institute of Robust Power Semiconductor Systems at the University of Stuttgart, the Institut für Hochfrequenztechnik und Elektronik (IHE) from KIT, Radiometer Physics GmbH and the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Solid State Physics. 

The technology

A combination of powerful transmitters, sensitive receivers and high-gain antennas (HGA) enabled the German team to achieve this record, said Dr. Michael Schlechtweg. ”As is often the case when you break that type of record, you need a combination of technologies. In this particular project, funded by the DLR, the German space agency, we combined in-house technologies with a high transmit power and sensitive receivers, which gave us the possibility to generate high power at a high radio frequency of 71–76 GHz in the so-called E band. Only in this frequency range of millimeter waves are the required high effective bandwidths available.”

The weakening of the signals over larger distances was yet another difficulty the team of scientists had to overcome. They had to have both a highly powerful transmission and just as highly efficient amplifiers. ”The key to the unique combination of gigabit data rates and highest distance are the efficient transmitters and receivers in the form of fully monolithically integrated millimeter wave circuits (MMICs).”

The circuits in question are based on two transistor technologies developed and manufactured by the Fraunhofer Institute. The broadband signals are amplified in the transmitter to a transmission power of up to 1 W with the help of power amplifiers using the compound semiconductor gallium-nitride, while a HGA emits the signals. To ensure the detection of weak signals at high distance, low-noise amplifiers are built into the receiver based on high-speed transistors using indium-gallium-arsenide-semiconductor layers with very high electron mobility.

A follow-up project, called ELIPSE (E Band Link Platform and Test for Satellite Communication), is already underway. Its aim is to develop the next generation of communication systems for the fast connection of satellites, an innovation which can also be used in terrestrial fixed wireless links.

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millimeter wave transmission

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