Mobile Broadband Data Demand to Grow ‘Thousandfold’ by 2020

University of California-Santa Barbara researchers say there’s a new wave coming to “conventional” wireless networks, and that’s the stress that demand is placing on wireless capacity. EurekaAlert.org said that mobile broadband data demand will grow a “thousandfold” by 2020, and Upamanyu Madhow, a professor in UC Santa Barbara’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, said carriers and providers are trying to find a solution.

The culprits include multimedia applications, streaming services, games, cloud storage, web conferencing and remote desktop services. However, $2.4 million has been allocated from the National Science Foundation to research solutions. Madhow and other researchers from UCSB, Stanford and the University of Wisconsin-Madison have been researching “millimeter wave band,” an area of the electromagnetic spectrum that operates at a much higher frequency than the radio waves used in conventional wireless communications, UCSB said in a statement. 

While today’s wireless systems operate in the one to five GHz range with wavelengths in the order of centimeters, the new system would “offer additional real estate on the electromagnetic spectrum, but their relatively smaller coverage area (called “cells”) lends itself to better efficiency.” The millimeter wave spectrum is being called “5G.” While the goal is to innovate circuit design, signal processing, network protocols and communication architecture, there are some barriers including rethinking of existing wireless infrastructure design principles, indoor cable replacement and outdoor static backhaul networks.

The team is researching various obstruction solutions including steerable, highly directive antenna arrays that can be miniaturized and adapted to highly dynamic environments. Researchers are also looking at solutions for reduced power consumption and manufacture scalability, hardware design, algorithms and network protocols, according to the release. There is a long way to go with this new technology, which could require billions of dollars before it’s brought to the marketplace.

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