The Need for Speed: Motivation for the development of wireless standards in the 60 GHz band

As the access to wireless communications becomes ever more widespread with the use of devices such as laptops, tablets and smartphones, the amount of information that is generated, exchanged and stored increases at an astounding rate. The infrastructure of the internet needs to grow to keep up and increase the traffic capacity, thus enabling better services and applications, which in turn result in an increased demand for traffic capacity. This insatiable need for a boost in capacity to foster innovation could be seen as a vicious cycle [1], but I like to think of it as a virtuous cycle, rather. It is thanks to it that the market has seen the arrival of technologies such as the IEEE 802.11 family of standards, 3G, 4G, etc.

To keep up with the ever increasing needs of the users, the capacity of wireless communications has improved in recent decades at a rate even faster than for wirelines, and it looks like this trend will continue for a while [2]. This goes in accordance with Edholm’s Law, which states that the 3 telecommunication categories (wireless, nomadic and wireline) increase with similar exponential curves. Wirelines had a head start in history, so it is natural that wireless is still lagging behind, but as seen in Figure 1, when the data rates are plotted logarithmically against time, straight lines fit the results. An extrapolation would indicate that in the future, the nomadic and wireless technologies will converge with the data rate of wirelines, and eventually leave it behind, which could well signify the end of wirelines [3].

Figure 1. Edholm’s Law [3]

Figure 1. Edholm’s Law [3]

More users that use increasingly complex applications pose demands that are not trivially solved.  One of the most important amendments made to the IEEE 802.11 standard was IEEE 802.11n, which implemented the use of antenna arrays to take advantage of the multipath signals and used wider channels in order to provide more speed. Applications such as those shown in Figure 2, like streaming of high definition (HD) video, computer display streaming, data transfers and networking and wireless bus are already reaching beyond the capabilities of IEEE 802.11n.

To achieve the data rates needed, it became evident that the fundamental limitation of current technologies (narrow bandwidth) had to be overcome, which implied increased spectral resources were required. So began the development of a new standard in the 60 GHz that could meet the needs of the applications mentioned in Figure 2  [1] [2].

 

Figure 2. WiGig Key Applications [4]

Figure 2. WiGig Key Applications [4]

The most prominent use for the technology would be the replacement of Wired Digital Interface (WDI) cables (e.g. HDMI, DisplayPort, USB, etc.). The approximate maximum data rates supported for some WDIs is shown in Figure 3, and it shows that any wireless technology that strives to replace these WDIs has to provide data rates up to tens of Gigabits per second [1].

 

Figure 3. Evolution of some prominent WDIs [1]

Figure 3. Evolution of some prominent WDIs [1]

The need for new technology that meets the present requirements by working with extended bandwidth to accomplish higher data rates has been established, and the industry is well motivated to pursue the use of 60 GHz communications [5] [4].

 

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