SAN JOSE, Calif. — After leading a successful charge to bring 60 GHz to wireless LANs, an Intel executive is driving research to define a proposal for using millimeter wave wireless in next-generation cellular systems.
The technology "will play a very serious role as an augmentation of the cellular infrastructure, but it won't replace it in the same way that WiGig augments WiFi," Ali Sadri, a senior director of millimeter wave standards in Intel's mobile and wireless group, told us.
Sadri led the WiGig effort that defined a specification for 60 GHz as a local-area network. The spec became the basis for today's IEEE 802.11ad standard, and the WiGig group was folded into the WiFi Alliance last year.
Sadri's team is now working on a tech demo of 60 GHz as a backhaul link for so-called small cell base stations that could be shown at the Mobile World Congress in February. The team is also researching 28 GHz and 39 GHz as access links to mobile devices, targeting a throughput of 1 Gbit/s or more at distances of at least 200 meters. "Our target is to start working on new media access controller and physical layer chips in 2016-2017, and we are also shooting for a project the industry can launch in 2020."
Intel is among the growing ranks of companies that say 5G cellular systems will need to use millimeter wave links to meet rising numbers of subscribers using more mobile data. Late last year, the European Commission kicked off a $1.8 billion 5G research effort that includes plans for millimeter wave research. Forums in Asia are pursuing similar goals.
The higher frequencies promise more spectrum and faster data throughput, though at shorter ranges. They also pose significant technical and regulatory challenges.
As part of his efforts, Sadri went to CES to have dinner with Federal Communications Commission officials. "We're at the educational level. A lot of study has to be done, shared simulations and test deployments, so it will be a couple years before the FCC can consider rule changes" to open up millimeter wave spectrum.
Intel is working with two consortia in Europe and has collaborated with Samsung and others on 5G millimeter projects. It is also tracking 5G efforts in places like China and Korea. "It's a huge project. It will be by far one of the most extensive and complex project in wireless to date."
Next page: 28 GHz vs. 39 GHz debate