Millimetre wave a key technology for 5G

28 April 2016

Huawei is leading research efforts to use the millimetre wave spectrum to provide the huge increase in capacity needed for 5G

The availability of frequency spectrum is of paramount importance to securing the future of mobile broadband as 5G wireless technologies are introduced as of 2020. The millimetre wave part of the frequency spectrum, 30 GHz to 300 GHz, has the potential to solve the capacity issue regarding the massive increase in data that is generated by 4G, and in the future by 5G, both for the backhaul and for access. As chairman of ETSI’s Industry Specification Group on millimetre Wave Transmission (ISG mWT), I am coordinating the development of specifications in the area of millimetre-wave transmission.

Notwithstanding the fact that new spectrum below 6 GHz was recently allocated to mobile by WRC2015, the huge capacity targets for 5G requires a move up to higher frequencies, where large portions of spectrum can be found in the millimetre-wave radio bands.

Millimetre wave is ideal for delivering a very large capacity over a short distance. It can offload data congestion and facilitate services requiring wide band, such as ultra-high definition video streaming, augmented reality and large downloads. Millimetre wave is therefore ideal for providing high capacity over short distances for multiple users in urban environments.

We are still at a very initial stage in developing the 5G standards for mm-wave, especially as not only is there still a lot of standardisation work for 5G overall, but also as there is still a lot of uncertainty over the actual frequency bands that will be allocated by WRC in 2019. Huawei’s research has been divided into four groups of frequency bands (namely Groups 30, 40, 50 and 80 GHz).

In ISG mWT, we are focusing on wireless backhaul, essential for the high data rate connection of the mobile base stations. In Europe, an average 70% of base stations are backhauled by wireless, with the capacity requirements growing along with the deployment of 4.5G and 5G.

Huawei is the top vendor in backhaul in Europe, and has the highest market share in the millimetre-wave that is nowadays related to the “V-band” (57-66 GHz) and “E-band” (71-86 GHz). Huawei’s E-band available products (RTN380) can already deliver a capacity up to 10 Gbit/s, making it the most suitable system for the backhaul of macro base stations in urban and suburban areas.

We showcased our millimetre wave multi-user MIMO (Massive Input Massive Output) technology with Deutsche Telekom at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in February. The live demo, conducted on the millimetre-wave band at 73 GHz, achieved up to 70 Gbps speed with high spectrum efficiency.

The first large-scale trials with 5G high frequency (28 GHz) will be at the Winter Olympic Games in South Korea in February 2018. Huawei’s European research centres in Gothenburg, Milan, and Munich are co-operating with HQ to research the architectures and technologies necessary to develop the prototypes that will be deployed in South Korea. The main research areas of millimetre-wave technology regard antennae, semiconductors (RFICs) and the algorithms needed to manage techniques such as digital beam-forming, beam-tracking and channel estimation.