June 8, 2016 — I have been seeing some interesting trends bubbling up to the center of the radar screen as 2016 approaches mid-year. And a lot of what I am seeing is at the leading edge. For example, recently some German researches were playing around in the E-band (71 – 76 GHz) and managed to get some really impressive numbers. The collaborative project ACCESS (Advanced E Band Satellite Link Studies) was carried out by a research group composed of a number of top-shelf German educational institutions.
On a stretch between Cologne and the town of Wachtberg, this team set up the E-band link and managed to get an impressive 6 Gbps data transmission rate at a distance of just over 22 miles. Why this is important is because the next generation of satellite communication will require an ever-increasing data offload from earth observation satellites down to earth. This has significant ramifications for supplying rural area and remote regions with fast Internet connections. It is possible that 250 Internet connections can be supplied with 24 Mbps ADSL (asymmetrical DSL).
Second, terrestrial radio transmissions in the E-band can be a cost-effective replacement for deployment of optical fiber, or as ad-hoc networks in the case of crises and catastrophe. They can also be used for connecting base stations in the backhaul of mobile communication systems – small cell backhaul, anyone? This is also significant for smart city applications and the Internet of anything (IoX).
What also makes this significant is that this was possible because of a combination of edge-of-the-envelope hardware. In this case, InGaAs semis, super sensitive low noise amplifiers and highly directive parabolic dishes.
But this is the kind of development needed to keep up with the tidal wave of data that is anticipated over the next few years, and since these frequencies are relatively limited in distance, it becomes a great wideband solution for short hops, for applications such as were mentioned earlier. This is something to watch.