Light Reading

60GHz: A Frequency to Watch

Dan Jones

It's now likely that 60GHz will become the next big frequency in wireless world, with both short-range and wider area applications ahead for the tiny beams of this unlicensed millimeter radio technology.

The frequency -- part of the V-Band frequencies in the US -- is considered among the millimeter radio (mmWave) bands. Millimeter wave radios ride on frequencies from 30GHz to 300GHz. Until recently, 60GHz has typically been used for military communications. (See 60GHz Giddyup.)

Recent acquisitions by massive technology players indicate growing interest in the technology and the associated patents. Qualcomm Inc. (Nasdaq: QCOM) bought Wilocity recently to combine 60GHz WiGig technology with WiFi. Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) bought Alpental, a startup that, according to one of its founders, is using 60GHz to develop a "hyper scalable mmWave networking solution for dense urban nextGen 5G & WiFi." (See Qualcomm Advances WiGig With Wilocity Buy and Google Buys Alpental for Potential 5G Future.)

Why 60GHz, and why now? Here are a few pointers for you.

WiGig: A new short-range wireless specification -- using the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. (IEEE) 802.11ad specification -- that can link devices at up to 7 Gbit/s over a distance of up to 12 meters. That's 10 times faster than the current 802.11n WiFi, though with less range. This makes the technology ideal for wirelessly delivering high-definition video in the home. The Wi-Fi Alliance is expecting WiGig-certified products to arrive in 2015. (See Wi-Fi Alliance, WiGig Align to Make WiFi Super Fast.)

Wireless backhaul: Particularly for small cells, operators can use the 60GHz radios to connect small cells to a fiber hub. (See More Startups Target Small-Cell Backhaul.)

Wireless bridges: These are useful for providing extra capacity at events, ad-hoc networks, and private high-speed enterprise links. (See Pushing 60.)

Wireless video: Some startups have jumped the gun on the WiGig standard and plowed ahead with their own 60GHz video connectivity using the Sony-backed WirelessHD standard.

Why 60GHz?
A global unlicensed band exists at 57-64GHz. It is largely uncongested compared to the 2.5GHz and 5GHz public bands currently used for WiFi. (See FCC to Enable Fast Streaming With New 60GHz Rules.)

There's also a lot of it. "The 60 GHz band boasts a wide spectrum of up to 9GHz that is typically divided into channels of roughly 2GHz each," Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC)'s LL Yang wrote in an article on the prospects for the wide-area and short-range use of the technology. Spectrum availability is "unmatched" by any of the lower-frequency bands.

The spectrum is now open and approved for use across much of the world. This includes the US, Europe, and much of Asia, including China. Here's a spectrum map from Agilent on the band's global availability.

(Source: Agilent)
(Source: Agilent)

As we've already seen, 60GHz technology is expected to offer blazing wireless transmission speeds.

Issues with 60GHz
No technology is ever perfect, right?

Transmissions at 60GHz have less range for a given transmit power than 5GHz WiFi, because of path loss as the electromagnetic wave moves through the air, and 60GHz transmissions can struggle to penetrate walls. There is also a substantial RF oxygen absorption peak in the 60GHz band, which gets more pronounced at ranges beyond 100 meters, as Agilent notes in a paper on the technology. Using a high-gain adaptive antenna array can help make up for some of these issues with using 60GHz for wider area applications.

Some vendors have also argued that there are potential advantages for the technology over omnidirectional systems. "The combined effects of O2 absorption and narrow beam spread result in high security, high frequency re-use, and low interference for 60GHz links," Sub10 Systems Ltd. notes.

Next time, we'll look at some of the key private and startup companies looking to ride the 60GHz wave.

— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading

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Shantanu Bhattacharya
Shantanu Bhattacharya,
User Rank: Moderator
7/18/2014 | 3:05:36 AM
Mobile / Backhaul : 60Ghz Frequency
This story on 60Ghz has generated very interesting insight and comments ! Excellent wisdom !
User Rank: Blogger
7/17/2014 | 12:29:39 PM
Re: Fills niche
Its a possibility.
User Rank: Blogger
7/17/2014 | 12:29:17 PM
Re: Let’s define the carrier grade backhaul
Interesting comments, thanks.
User Rank: Lightning
7/12/2014 | 1:22:33 PM
Let’s define the carrier grade backhaul
Outdoor backhaul products are totally different from the WiGig short-range indoor ones.

As such, there are different regulation schemes for each application, and that includes Tx power, Antenna gain, modulations and channel widths and arrangements.

Most of the products available today for outdoor P2P applications were developed before the rush for the small cell backhaul era and are striving to become candidates for this promising application. Now, let's list the essential capabilities mobile operators are not going to compromise while choosing small cell backhaul solutions:
  1. Frequencies. Traditional microwave systems are operating in FDD utilizing two parallel frequencies bands with a stop band in the middle. 60GHz band was not designed as such and it is continues band. Solutions operating in FDD mode at 60GHz are actually burning valuable GHz of frequencies. Why? Because those vendors are expert in producing FDD systems. The solution is TDD. TDD enables very efficient utilization of the whole band, with 2 advantages: A. no need for stop band. B. It can adapt to the actual need of the data application (cellular and WiFi) which is clearly asymmetric. Remember efficiency.
  2. Number of Gigabit Ethernet ports. Any solution must enable connectivity for local small cell (maybe two, if you are wholesale provider backhauling more than one operator) and also need to enables cascading. So 2 are must. 3 gives even further flexibility (hub site, backhauling surveillance cameras, etc')
  3. Size and shape. The solution must be as small as possible. How small? Bear in mind the width of the street level poles and bring a solution not wider than that. It should simply blend in the environment with an ultra-small form factor. Shape. It should not look like a transmission system (you know the radiation fobia).

The solutions mentioned by Dan are all FDD, and have single (!!!) frequency channel. How can they fit at a dense urban to backhaul small dozens of small cells? Scalability and efficiency were not part of the design fundamental when those were made. Gigabit ports. Again, the solutions mentioned here all have single port and they also fail the size and shape criterion. Bear in mind: the only real small cell and street level solution, designed from scratch for dense urban environment while targeting all those important issues (and many more) is Siklu's EH-600T. Now take a look and realize what leading small cell outdoor backhaul pioneers already understood while bringing this innovative productSiklu EH600T to their trails.

Mitch Wagner
Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
7/11/2014 | 7:45:52 PM
Re: Fills niche
I wonder whether 60 MHz is an alternative to Bluetooth for personal area networks?
User Rank: Blogger
7/11/2014 | 5:59:54 PM
Re: waiting for Software Defined Radio...
Oh man, there's some really wild stuff going on in antenna land these days.
User Rank: Light Sabre
7/11/2014 | 5:26:01 PM
Re: waiting for Software Defined Radio...
Can I wait for software defined antennas as well?


User Rank: Blogger
7/11/2014 | 5:13:42 PM
Re: waiting for Software Defined Radio...
Possible, but probably a long, long way off. Some people are considering 100GHz for longer range stuff but I haven't seen much actual work in that area beyond academic presentations.
User Rank: Light Sabre
7/11/2014 | 4:36:08 PM
waiting for Software Defined Radio...
Keeping track of all the frequencies should be done with software... There have been a few projects to try software defined radio, but apparently the complexities are still a bit un-economical for practical use.

User Rank: Light Sabre
7/11/2014 | 10:59:41 AM
Re: Fills niche
60G is unregulated because it's the peak absorption frequency of oxygen, with dry air attenuation at 14 dB/km.  Its Primary occupant is satellite-satellite communications; the atmosphere provides a nice blanket to protect it from surface users.  WiGig is a perfectly sensible way to sent a heap of bits across a room without messing up the getting-crowded 5G band.

The FCC's new ptp rules are very generous; they allow up to +30 dBm (1 watt) output and +82 dBm EIRP.  Nobody's building that yet, though, and boy would that 52 dB antenna (only 2 feet) need to be carefully aimed.  We have a bunch of Bridgewave 60G radios and they can pump a huge amount of data for half a mile or so.  But not in heavy rain -- the NMS chart of received signal strength is not a bad rainfall meter. (A cheap 5G radio makes a nice backup.) The licensed 80GHz band has slightly more rain fade but not the oxygen attenuation, so it can go a little farther in dry weather.

I keep watching for cheap ptp radios to come to this band.  Exalts are now below $10k/pair, but just as Atheros made it possible for $100 5G radios to outperform costly older ones, there's an opening for a disruptive 60G ptp radio.
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