Researchers Develop Ultrafast Wireless Network to Rival Optical Fiber

The radio frequency spectrum for wireless telecommunications, is a limited resource which needs effective management in order to satisfy the surplus data demands. In a bid to help operators manage these excessive demands posed by the growth in users of wireless internet access, researchers at IMDEA Networks have developed a novel communications architecture for future ultrafast wireless networks that can achieve data rates previously only possible with optical fiber.

Global technology company, Facebook, initiated the Terragraph project that uses a mesh of reconfigurable millimeter-wave links to provide reliable, high-speed Internet access in urban and suburban environments. It previously experimented with networks of solar-powered drones with millimeter-wave backhaul and interconnection links to provide connectivity in areas with little infrastructure.

The Project Loon by Alphabet - Google’s parent company, uses high-altitude balloons with millimeter-wave links for the same purpose. Millimeter-wave technology also has extremely interesting properties for large scale networks of small satellites to provide world-wide connectivity, such as the planned Starlink network of SpaceX and PointView Tech (Facebook), and is very likely to be used in such networks. As density and capacity of such types of networks increases, the scalability results of this ERC project will be of high practical relevance.

According to IMDEA expert, Dr. Joerg Widmer, the ground breaking protocols and algorithms they have developed provide key elements for the scalability of future wireless networks. Like with the evolution of wired Ethernet from a shared medium to a fully switched network, his team envisions that future wireless networks will consist of many highly directional LOS (line-of-sight) channels for communication between access points (APs) and end devices. Thus, the architecture of future millimeter-wave networks will be characterized by being ultra-dense and highly scalable.

According to him, in order to deal with the extremely dynamic radio environments where channels may appear and disappear over very short time intervals, SEARCHLIGHT uses angle information to rapidly align the directional millimeter-wave antennas. The architecture integrates a location system and learns a map of the radio environment, which allows to rapidly selecting the most suitable access point and antenna beam pattern and allocate radio resource using predicted location as context information. Access points are deployed ubiquitously to provide continuous connectivity even in face of mobility and blockage and the project developed very low overhead network management mechanisms to cope with the high device density.

Dr. Joerg Widmer, was recently awarded a H2020 Marie Sklodowska-Curie Innovative Training Network grant on "Millimeter-wave Networking and Sensing for Beyond 5G", and within this project his group will follow-up on the promising work that was started during the ERC grant. The work of the prestigious ERC grant also led to a collaboration project funded by Huawei on millimeter-wave and low frequency channel correlation and a sub-contracted project on a "Millimeter-wave SDR-based Open Experimentation Platform" within the framework of the H2020 project "Orchestration and Reconfiguration Control Architecture (ORCA)", to extend a FPGA based platform to less powerful hardware and enable remote access and experimentation for teaching and research.

Click here to view the research paper.