The 5G market continues to gain momentum in 2021 with the market expanding in coverage to more cities and towns. One of the biggest trends was the move to establish infrastructure for standalone (SA) 5G networks that would lead to the deployment of millimeter wave (mmWave) technology.
What is mmWave?
Non-standalone (NSA) 5G technology, which has been the bulk of the 5G networks deployed worldwide, uses 4G infrastructure already in place and piggybacks on the 5G signal through this equipment. Because 4G infrastructure has been deployed globally, the NSA equipment is more plentiful than SA 5G equipment currently installed worldwide. However, SA infrastructure is growing in deployment.
SA 5G uses new infrastructure put in place specifically to run 5G networks allowing smart devices and other potential use cases to take advantage of the high download speed, high bandwidth and low latency that the technology affords. SA 5G is expected to be where the bulk of mmWave deployments will begin and the true potential of 5G can be used by consumers and business.
Because NSA 5G technology has been most deployments, sub-6 GHz 5G technology has been the most popular spectrum bandwidth used for 5G. Sub-6 GHz uses the lower end of the spectrum to provide coverage of cellular connections. While this is higher in bandwidth and performance than 4G technology, it is not the full performance that is touted by 5G.
5G mmWave is considered “true 5G” to meet the speeds expected from the next generation wireless technology — 10 times the speed, higher bandwidth and lower latency than 4G. However, the technology is problematic in that it does not travel far in its current form, especially indoors. The higher frequency transmissions are interrupted while traveling between obstacles such as trees, buildings or walls, disconnecting the service from the user. While sub-6 GHz technology can flow through obstacles easier, it does not have the ability to generate the speeds promised by 5G.
Once these challenges are solved, mmWave will allow for the promised 10 times speeds of 4G and companies are rapidly deploying mmWave to push the benefits of 5G and generate consumer interest.
Movandi, a developer of 5G mmWave RF technologies and software, has unveiled what it believes are five trends that will happen in 2022 that will expand the reach and scope of mmWave development and adoption.
“2022 is the year smart repeaters will take center stage to help accelerate challenging 5G mmWave deployments, by improving both performance and economics for global 5G operators,” said Reza Rofougaran, CTO and co-founder of Movandi.
Here’s what the company thinks will be the major trends of 2022 for mmWave:
1) Hybrid networks
First, private networks and managed services will gain momentum as a solution for enterprises. mmWave networks can be used for “wireless fiber” operating in the unlicensed 60 GHz and licensed 24/26/39 GHz spectrum to replace fiber for backhaul. This works especially for larger venues such as buildings, stadiums and shopping centers.
Using a hybrid of 5G mmWave and Wi-Fi, also known as WiFive, the approach will bring massive bandwidth of mmWave with the local installed base of Wi-Fi devices to allow faster speeds and lower latency.
2) Repeaters gain momentum
Currently, mmWave technology uses smart cells or gNBs to expand coverage. But this is not cost effective. Instead, using smart repeaters could cut deployment costs and time in half.
Movandi said that a ratio between 4:1 to 10:1 smart repeaters to gNB/small cells would suffice to provide the same coverage area.
Because of this, the company sees a repeater mesh approach becoming a standard way to build mmWave frequencies with first commercial deployments coming in 2022.
3) AI, ML and cloud-based technology expands mmWave
Using real-time cloud and artificial intelligence-controlled mesh networking, mmWave network performance, economics and reliability can be optimized.
Traffic is routed based on changing usage patterns and varying signal conditions. Machine learning reveals the environmental conditions with live updates for certain circumstances such as if a user is in a moving van, stationary in a building or has obstacles in his or her way.
Automated signal search and detection can allow installations to be optimized for reducing time and cost for deployment as well to construct a plug-and-play system for easier operation and installation.
4) 6G will need repeaters
Movandi said that 5G is just the start for challenges involving mmWave and 6G will be even a larger task that has only started to be discussed.
Use of smart repeaters may be a way to solve these problems and, as they become widely deployed in the next decade, they could provide a foundation for 6G infrastructure for when a migration to this future cellular technology happens.
5) Repeater-as-a-service (RaaS)
A new business model is likely to be created that will give service providers what they need to accelerate deployment by reducing the up-front costs of installing and managing mmWave technology.
This service would include intelligent repeater hardware, chipsets, antenna technology and cloud AI software. Open APIs will be provided to allow developers to create services that can be packaged as complete offerings that enable service providers to tailor what they want from the RaaS, Movandi said.