From 5G to 6G: National Instruments shares a preview of the future
5G is not yet standardized, but wireless carriers know that if they wait to invest they will fall behind. AT&T is already building the systems it will use to test its future 5G networks. Meanwhile, engineers at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency have created a competition for software defined radios that could completely change the nature of wireless transmissions. Today’s 5G testing and tomorrow’s 6G work were both on display this week at NI Week 2017.
AT&T demonstrated a new channel sounder that the carrier built using NI’s LabVIEW software. Dr. Arun Ghosh of AT&T Labs explained that as the carrier looked at 5G fixed wireless and vehicular communication, it became clear that a new way to model the wireless channels was needed. The channel sounder that AT&T created shows channels and channel data in real time, and is self-contained in a mobile unit that can be driven at up to 8 miles per hour without compromising the data.
The important role National Instruments is playing in 5G was clear from the audience applause that erupted when the company announced its launch of a 28 GHz radio head that is part of millimeter wave transceiver system. Both AT&T and Verizon Wireless are working on 5G fixed wireless in the 28 GHz band.
National Instruments is also involved in DARPA research around the next generation of wireless technology, “6G.” Researchers at DARPA are already exploring the idea that radio transmissions that are defined by frequency band could become obsolete. They are experimenting with software defined radios that can communicate with one another and move between frequencies. Their test bed was built using National Instruments radios.
DARPA is administering a $3.75 million grant for research in this area, which it calls collaborative intelligent networks. Engineers that want to compete for the grant or contribute to the research can learn more at spectrumcollaborationchallenge.com. DARPA is preparing for a competition that will be held next month, and following that competition the agency will admit new teams for the next round.