by Andreas Gladisch, Deutsche Telekom, and Salil Sawhney, Facebook, project group co-chairs

Introducing the Millimeter Wave Networks Project Group

The Telecom Infra Project today launched the Millimeter Wave (mmWave) Networks Project Group, co-chaired by Deutsche Telekom and Facebook, to address the growing demand for bandwidth in dense, highly-populated cities. The group’s ultimate goal is to create a vibrant ecosystem of telecom operators and technology vendors collaborating to develop and deploy mmWave networks.

The mmWave group will focus on advancing networking solutions that use the 60 GHz frequency band. This large slice of unlicensed spectrum can support the bandwidth required by virtual reality, augmented reality, 4K video streaming, smart city sensors and other emerging bandwidth-intensive applications.

The mmWave group will use data and lessons learned from Facebook’s Terragraph solution, a proof-of-concept system that overcame the signal range and absorption limitations that previously confined the 60GHz frequency to indoor use. The group will also benefit from Deutsche Telekom’s considerable experience and know-how in effectively deploying new technologies, particularly in urban environments with complex technical and regulatory issues.

System basics

The mmWave Group’s hardware engineering efforts will focus on promoting the design of nodes that combine radio transmitters and receivers. These nodes will be designed for installation on utility poles, street lamps, sides of buildings and other public locations throughout a city to provide coverage. They will work together in a mesh configuration, with traffic hopping from node to node to reach the reception point, which could be a Wi-Fi access point, small cell or a building.

This network architecture requires only a handful of nodes to be connected to fiber in order to provide city-wide coverage, which will help minimize capital expenditures. In addition, the hardware will use a commercial off-the-shelf WiGig chipset components to contain costs.

Four tracks

The group will complement the system with an innovative suite of software tools and best practices to help service providers and municipalities streamline and maximize mmWave deployments. This effort is currently focused on the four following tracks:

  • Cost economics modeling: the group will create a template that operators can populate with their specific deployment characteristics and goals to determine if the chief benefit of the deployment will be revenue generation or cost savings.
  • Validation: the group will develop a suite of test and simulation tools to help carriers validate the performance and capabilities of 60GHz networking for metro applications.
  • Network planning: this collection of tools will be optimized for the specific requirements of 60GHz networking so service providers can accurately model their deployments for optimal coverage while minimizing the amount of equipment to be installed.
  • Best practices: this set of guidelines and recommendations will help municipalities foster 60GHz deployments. These will include details on obtaining spectrum covering permits and rules for attaching nodes to utility poles, street lights, traffic signal poles and other street furniture.

Use cases

Each of the four tracks will support the following 60GHz uses cases the mmWave Project Group is initially focused on:

  • Fixed wireless access: delivering gigabit data rates to homes, offices, apartments and other buildings
  • Mobile backhaul: supporting wide-scale deployments of small cells and Wi-Fi access points for better and more reliable mobile experiences
  • Smart city applications: enabling blanket wireless coverage to support smart city devices

Here’s a brief overview of each use case:

Fixed wireless access

A 60GHz wireless system could help service providers serve new customers beyond the reach of their physical networks. The system can wirelessly link high-bandwidth fiber and hybrid fiber-coaxial (HFC) networks with homes, businesses, apartments, libraries and other buildings to provide gigabit data rates comparable to those achieved with fiber. In this application, a node on a building exterior is connected to an interior Ethernet or Wi-Fi network to provide building-wide connectivity.

Mobile backhaul

60GHz wireless systems could also provide more bandwidth to mobile users by being the high-capacity backhaul connection between service providers’ core networks and the small cells and Wi-Fi access points at the network edge. Wirelessly connecting small cells and Wi-Fi access points instead of using fiber can substantially reduce costs and shorten installation times. Demand for mobile bandwidth is growing as users increasingly enjoy augmented reality, virtual reality and video applications.

Smart City applications

60GHz wireless systems could also enable smart city applications, where data is collected from a massive number of sensors, smart utility meters, smart parking meters, traffic cameras and even street lights so city planners can make better informed decisions. The goal is to make cities function more efficiently and to improve quality of life.

Project kickoff

The mmWave Group will hold its first official meeting at Mobile World Congress Americas on September 12. Organizations interested in joining TIP and the mmWave Project Group can learn more here.

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