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From Wi-Fi to mobile

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Beyond 5G – internet after the next generation

2017-11-09

The coming 5G mobile communications standard will not sate our hunger for data for very long. That is why Fraunhofer experts are already working on 6G together with partners from industry and research as part of the EU-sponsored TERRANOVA project. The goal is to create a network in the terahertz frequency range.

 - The image shows a functional prototype of a 300 GHz multichannel wireless system for further integration as a system-on-chip, developed by Fraunhofer IAF.
© Fraunhofer IAF
The image shows a functional prototype of a 300 GHz multichannel wireless system for further integration as a system-on-chip, developed by Fraunhofer IAF.

The current frequency bands will not be enough to serve the growing demand for stable wireless communication. For this reason, researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Solid State Physics IAF have teamed up with researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Telecommunications HHI and partners from industry and research to work on the communications standard that is set to follow in the EU-sponsored TERRANOVA project. The goal is to create a stable network connection in the terahertz frequency range that allows for wireless data transmission at speeds of up to 400 gigabits a second.

The researchers’ solution is to combine fiber optic technology with wireless transmission. The frequencies for wireless technology are too low to achieve the kind of bandwidth necessary to relay data at fiber optic speed. “To achieve the same data rates provided by fiber optics wirelessly, we need to be transmitting on frequencies in the terahertz range,” explains project lead Dr. Thomas Merkle of Fraunhofer IAF. With terahertz frequencies, “there is enough bandwidth to achieve data rates of up to 400 gigabits a second.” Merkle’s team is working on a transfer from optic to wireless data transmission. “We want to fully exploit the potential of fiber optics without restricting it to cable connections, but rather transferring it to wireless transmissions.”

Seamless transition

Bandwidth is one of the central challenges. Another aspect is the transition between different access technologies – be it Wi-Fi, mobile connection (4G) or cable (LAN). As mobile users switch constantly between them, the transition should work without disruption, “to give users an experience where they don’t even notice they are switching between access technologies,” says Dr. Colja Schubert from Fraunhofer HHI.

Researchers at Fraunhofer IAF and Fraunhofer HHI are working in close collaboration to develop and test the hardware elements of the pioneering network structure. Here, the strengths of the two institutes complement each other. Fraunhofer HHI contributes its expertise in network concepts and its extensive experience from numerous 5G projects and fiber optics, while Fraunhofer IAF brings its experience in high-frequency wireless technology and millimeter wave technology in the analog realm. Since these areas often work in isolation of one another, the collaboration of the two institutes harbors a great deal of potential for the development of high-speed internet. The scientists show their research at Productronica (Hall B2.317).