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4G/3G/WiFi

Samsung: Inching Toward 5G?

Samsung is claiming a "5G" breakthrough this Monday with a 1-Gbit/s test in South Korea.

The South Korean device giant says it's using microwave spectrum combined with a "64 element" adaptive array antenna to improve the notorious signal propagation characteristics of the high-frequency bands. Samsung says it is using millimeter wave technology that will eventually allow it to develop base stations that can deliver tens of gigabits of data per second over the air.

What can and can't be called fifth generation (5G) wireless technology is even more up in the air than the meaning of 4G right now. At least the ITU had an initial requirement that 4G systems should be able to deliver 1-Gbit/s downloads to a stationary user, even if changed its mind later. [Ed note: Oh hey, maybe Samsung has actually created the first real 4G technology?]

Here's what we know so far:

Samsung held a trial in South Korea where it wirelessly transmitted data at 1Gbit/s over a distance of 2 kilometers. It plans to have the technology commercially available in 2020.

We don't know yet which radio interface technology was used, or whether this was a mobile or stationary test.

We do know that Samsung used a band commonly utilized for fixed-wireless microwave transmissions for the test. Plenty of vendors already claim 1-Gbit/s speeds for stationary microwave links. Millimeter wave technology in the upper band has also started to become interesting for small cell backhaul applications.

Nonetheless, the 28Ghz band (and those above) has traditionally been seen as spectrum that isn't much use for mobile communications, since these upper bands are very susceptible to rain fade and other issues.

Samsung says things are different with millimeter wave (mmWave), which rides on the space between the microwave transmissions. Using its 64 element antenna -- and likely a hefty dose of antenna gain -- overcomes the range and propagation issues in the upper bands, Samsung claims.

The 64 antenna elements used suggests that the test equipment derives its speed from an 8x8 multiple input multiple out (MIMO) antenna array. Vendors are looking at 2x2 MIMO arrays for LTE-Advanced, so this would be a significant step forward, while promising chip vendors and device manufacturers more miniaturization challenges for future mobile gadgets.

While I hate to rain (fade) on anyone's parade, we've been down this road before. There have been plenty of attempts to overcome the issues of high-band radios with hybrid systems and the like. It will be interesting to see how far Samsung can take this technology and what kind of bumps lie on the foggy road ahead.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Light Reading Mobile

DanJonesLRMobile 5/15/2013 | 3:29:11 PM
re: Samsung: Inching Toward 5G? Yeah, that's why I thought it was interesting. People just reported it as forget 4G, here's 5G, but I was looking at the Samsung page on it and not seeing a great leap forward, maybe just an evolution of what's already in Release 10 and some different bands being used.
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