(Photo by Brady Dale)
Can the wireless industry deliver on its 5G promises?
There are engineering challenges that have to be solved on a significant scale in order to make plentiful, ubiquitous wireless connections work. Insiders have a name for a future when we are all awash in wireless access.
They call it the “tactile internet.”
It’s an internet so fast, so reliable, that you can put on a sensor-filled glove and a pair of VR goggles in Boston and pick up a real orange with a robot hand in Chicago, and the system can make it feel like you’re really picking up that orange, in real time.
That’s the tactile internet.
So, here are three systems that Nokia demoed at the Brooklyn 5G Summit that bring us much closer to a tactile reality.
The stalker connection
5G wireless will follow you.
The above cart is a prototype stand-in for a mobile device that demonstrators moved at walking speed across the room. It showed that an antennae at the other end of the ballroom could track and maintain a 2 Gbps connection while the cart was in motion.
5G wireless will be shooting out tighter beams to users, so there will be less wiggle room. It will be necessary for access points to look directly at users and follow them around. Fortunately, these access points aren’t that big, and Nokia spokespeople said that they expect they will get much smaller. Maybe little buckets on our light poles, or smaller still.
4G LTE is maxing out at around 40 Mbps speed right now, for download. This device showed that it was possible to wirelessly transmit data at 10 Gbps. According to Nokia spokespeople on site, this demonstration was a first of its kind in the world.
For some sense of scale, 40 Mbps equals 18 Gigabits per hour. 10 Gbps is, in other words, a dramatic improvement.
If you had any doubt about whether or not data was actually passing through the two devices, viewers could step into the path of the beam and see it immediately disrupt the meter tracking the speed.
It would have been interesting if the Nokia reps had let you send large files to the device, see how long it took to transfer from your mobile to their system and then how long it took to send across the room.
The importance of this joint project between Mitsubishi and Nokia is probably the hardest to visualize. This 16-by-16 massive multiple input, multiple output (MIMO) array was a proof of concept for a large array of antennae that move.
One drawback of higher frequency, shorter wavelengths, is that they are not so good at passing through solid objects. They can pass through some, but not as readily as current wireless bands. So it helps to be able to give these systems multiple pathways, and one way to improve those pathways is to deploy as many antennae as possible and give them the power to move.
This proof-of-concept showed that beams could be moved around on a massive array and that the data could be processed in real time.
This image also demonstrates how Nokia studied the arrangement of these arrays in dense, urban grids, showing that existing technology could achieve certain 5G benchmarks.
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