From the start in 2012, 802.11ad (also referred to as unlicensed 5G) was created with the idea to use it for very short-range applications like HDMI replacement, wireless docking stations, etc. However, for various reasons it never became mainstream. Larger vendors like Intel and Broadcom tried and made low power 802.11ad solutions based on CMOS technology that did not really produce the results that were expected and the spectrum regulations were not supporting the best use of the technology. Even for these giant companies, it was quite difficult to succeed with these new higher mmWave frequencies in consumer applications and make good products on bulk CMOS, which is not ideal for 60 GHz solutions.
After some time, new ways of using this very wide band and low latency technology started to develop. The US Federal Communications Commission was first to understand the greatness by passing new regulations and more licensing free spectrum in Nov 2017. In July 2019, the Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Administrations (CEPT), a conference driven by the member states in the European communication committee, also decided to allow the same regulations as FCC. Starting 1 January 2020, all 28 member countries in the EU are now allowed to use this spectrum. In addition, countries like Japan and Australia are following these new rules. With this important step in place, the door was now open for 802.11ad to be used in most mature markets and products are now starting to be deployed.
This development is now offering a large group of system suppliers to start building products based on this technology. Sivers Semiconductors, Renesas (formerly Integrated Device Technology, IDT) and Blu Wireless joined forces to develop an infrastructure grade baseband and RF-solution that is now used in many different solutions. Also Terragraph and the Telecom Infra Project (TIP) were created by, for example, Facebook and Deutsche Telecom to use 60 GHz technology as a fundamental pillar of ther network build strategies.
The first and main use case now being adopted by several operators is Fixed Wireless Access (FWA), i.e. wireless gigabit broadband to the home. The growth expectations are high and driven by, for example, our customer Adtran/CCS with the MetNet solution used by UK based wireless Internet Service provider (WISP) Wildanet as well as Micronät in Sweden. This market is in an early phase since this year in the EU, and it is poised to grow heavily over the coming 5-10 years, with many new WISPs all over the world staring to adopt this new technology.
Smart Cities/Mesh networks
Adtran/CCS MetNet solution is also used outside the FWA, where the mesh network solution offers multi-gigabit wireless capacity for backhaulnetworks in for example London were Ontix is has built and is growing its neutral host network solutions for backhaul of 4G/5G. Ontix also offers 60 GHz FWA services in SoHo, for example. The Ontix way of using 60 GHz technology represents the way Smart Cities need to be built as highlighted by the TIP Playbook [Ref 1]. Hence, 60 GHz will also play an important role in mesh networks and be an important part of the smart city backbones in the years to come.
Our partner and customer Blu Wireless has also shown, in several projects, the incredible potential of this technology enabled for the transportation industry. For example, they have shown how to use 60 GHz at very high speeds with McLaren at the Millbrook proving ground [Ref 2]. Another case is the partnership between Blu Wireless and FirstGroup [Ref 3], offering track-to-train multi-gigabit connection with sub milliseconds (0.7 ms) latency at 260 km/h.
Today, we have several design wins in this area using 60 GHz. These are quite different use cases and, of course, very secret projects. However, even I have been surprised what defense firms have been able to do with our 60 GHz technology in this area. It is quite exciting to see that 60 GHz also can be used for these applications.
Integrated Access Backhaul or 5G Backhaul
You can use 60 GHz for traditional point-to-point backhaul, as some of Sivers design wins are developing, or as mesh networks for backhaul of 4G or WiFi access points, as developed by Ontix. However, when the World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC 2019) in October/November 2019 decided to open up 66-71 GHz usage for 5G, the main use case for 60 GHz was for Integrated Access Backhaul (IAB) solutions. This part of 3GPP Rel. 16 and 17 will set the IAB commercialization in motion. Operators that are now building 5G small cells can’t wait for this new 60 GHz technology to be available for deployment in their networks. But these are still early days.
Multi-gigabit wireless indoor backbone
This is also new with very interesting use cases. One example is AirVine, a start-up customer that just launched a groundbreaking product for multi-gigabit wireless indoor backbones. AirVine values the system market in commercial buildings at approximately USD 6 billion over the next five years. This new area will be quite interesting to follow with commercial products in the market in 2021 according to AirVine [Ref 4].
Smarter Factories – Industry 4.0
60 GHz offers high bandwidth and very low latency that can power Smarter Factories and Industry 4.0 applications. With gigabit speeds and license free spectrum, this area will see a very interesting development over the coming two to three years [Ref 5].
To all of this we can add Public Safety, Vehicle to Everything (V2X) connectivity, etc. The opportunities are endless, and the journey has just started for 60 GHz – a technology that was only just approved since 1 January 2020 in Europe. Our latest 60 GHz module is now available. It’s smaller, better and at the right cost level (https://www.siversima.com/product/bfm-06009/). Join us on this exciting journey by contacting [email protected]
Anders Storm Group CEO Sivers Semiconductors
Ref 4 https://www.airvine.com/