How the High Speed Internet Works
Just this year, Ericsson started shipping 64 antenna array systems, with multiple companies such as Huawei, ZTE and even Facebook successfully demonstrating 96 to 128 array systems. The number of antennas per base station is only set to increase as testing and refinement continue.
The average consumer will have at least 6 to 8 connected devices, bringing 3 with them wherever they go. If you multiply this single person by the population density of cities, you can begin to see why massive MIMO is so essential in providing all those devices connectivity.
Massive MIMO in deployment will be able to provide connectivity to over 1 million devices per square kilometre, which is enough to provide quality connection in the city hubs, stadiums and other tightly packed areas where current 4G systems often fail or struggle.
The main problem with Massive MIMO is the interference that all these intersecting waves will create due to how tightly packed together the antennas are. This would result in distorted or destroyed data which wouldn’t be good at all.
The next 2 technologies we’ll be discussing are essential in solving the issues millimetre waves and massive MIMO have. Beamforming is an essential data transmission technique required for massive MIMO to work as expected and reduce the signal propagation loss due to the higher frequencies of millimetre waves.
Base stations are constantly broadcasting signals not necessarily aiming for a particular target. When your device receives a transmission from a cell tower, there was a lot of interference produced elsewhere to ensure your signal was received.
Beamforming acts like a crossing guard, only sending out signals exactly where and when they are needed by spatially tracking them until they reach their target device. Like massive MIMO adding more antennas to base stations, there will also be more antennas added to devices as well, ranging from 4 to 16 plus.
This addition of antennas is key for beamforming allowing for more precise advanced spatial tracking. This addition of antennas will allow our devices to connect to the best station in their vicinity to establish a line of sight communication. Taking it one step further, beamforming will be spatially aware enough to bounce signals off obstacles in the environment to ensure they reach their target location.
Before we begin discussing the next technology, I want to play this clip from Qualcomm as it shows all the technologies we’ve discussed thus far working together in unison: So what our research Centre did is they took a fixed solution, and they added adaptive beamforming to it.
So what you can get at millimetre wave is very high gain antennas, so we’re looking at many antennas. You might have arrays of 4, 8 or even 16 and many antennas around the device, and on the base station, we’re looking at numbers of antennas that could exceed 128, 256 or even higher.
Beamforming is all about setting the right amplitude and phase for each of these elements so that collectively they steer the beam in a certain direction. This has to be done dynamically, you think of it as a spotlight on a stage where a performer is on stage and is moving around and the spotlight follows.
So when you see our GUI or a UI you’ll see a spherical design of where the energy would be most attractive in terms of providing the performance we want. So depending on the angle of arrival of the energy, depending on which reflection in the environment is providing the best path – that’s what we’ll be able to select and that’s part of the beamforming algorithm and the communication between the UE and the base station.
Small cells aren’t necessarily a new technology, but we’ll see greater use with the evolution of mobile networks. Small cells are essentially smaller base stations that can be installed anywhere. They range in size from large macrocells to micro and Pico cells that can be installed on top of buildings and street lights, all the way down to feta cells that are often user installed.
Up until recently, small cells have primarily been used to expand coverage to rural areas, however in combination with 5G technologies will be key in reducing the propagation loss of millimetre waves and routing beamformed signals. This technology will be essential in ensuring consistent high-speed low latency coverage wherever you are.
An example of how important and powerful small cells can be when utilized properly is the small cell delivery concept Nokia recently demonstrated. Based on off-network capacity and the need for coverage in a particular area, drones can deploy solar-powered small cells that immediately connect to base stations and provide data.
This will allow networks to support seemingly infinite capacity, with autonomous drones taking the cells wherever they are required. To further illustrate the power of small cells, imagine stadiums or concerts. Often these areas have poor connections due to the high volume of people in such a small area.
With the power of a massive MIMO being able to support 1 million devices per square kilometre and multiple small cells in the stadium, everyone can get access to a high-speed connection. This will also enable the ability to change the way live events are streamed to the public.
Full duplex is a communications paradigm, which can solve the issues that reciprocity creates. The principle of reciprocity in electromagnetism applied to cellular networks, essentially states that an electromagnetic wave must transmit and receive on the same frequency.
Now, this would cause major signal interference which is why up until now, to work around this we use different frequency bands when transmitting and receiving. The problem with our current solution is that we have to use double the frequency spectrum space when trying to communicate between devices.
To solve this problem in a way that could be applied to our devices, engineers have recently created fast silicon switches which allow the signals to essentially travel around each other instantaneously.