NYU Wireless spearheads new testbed for mmWave spectrum

The NYU Wireless research center, which made a name for itself in millimeter wave (mmWave) technology research, will use funds from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to build an advanced programmable platform for designing, prototyping and validating mmWave technologies. 

The NSF program supports exploratory work on potentially transformative research, and the platform will be one of the first of its kind available to researchers from academia, government and industry who are driving the early stages of mmWave technology.

NYU Wireless was instrumental in advocating for an FCC proceeding that ultimately will see more higher-band spectrum for commercial wireless services. Verizon Wireless (NYSE: VZ) also has been lobbying the FCC lately to act quickly on making the higher-band spectrum available as it seeks to get its 5G services out early.

As NYU Wireless explains it, mmWave communication relies on highly directional transmissions in which energy is concentrated in narrow beams. Current mmWave prototyping systems use directional horn antennas mounted on mechanically rotatable gimbals. The mechanical systems are too large and too slow for mobile applications. The new software-defined radio (SDR) platform will integrate an electrically steerable phased array with no physically moving parts and near-instantaneous steering.

Researchers plan to use equipment from NYU Wireless affiliate sponsor SiBeam to provide the RF front end for the testbed. National Instruments (NI), also an affiliate sponsor, will provide a high-bandwidth and massive baseband processing system to create mmWave prototypes capable of high data rates and very low latency.

NYU Wireless points out that the mmWave spectrum could provide 200 times the capacity of all of today's cellular spectrum allocations. 5G is expected to become more than 1,000 times faster than 4G.

Sundeep Rangan, NYU Wireless director and associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering, is the lead researcher for the project, which received about $100,000 for equipment as part of the NSF Early-concept Grant for Exploratory Research, also known as an EAGER Award.

NI says its software-defined platform based on LabVIEW and PXI is ideal for researching and prototyping cutting-edge technology to achieve faster data rates in the mmWave spectrum. The high gain phase array that SiBeam is providing is one of the most sophisticated components of the project.

The first version of the system will operate in the 60 GHz band, which is one of several that the FCC decided to regulate to move mmWave technology toward commercialization.

For more:
- see this Campus Technology article
- see this press release

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