Multi-gigabit wireless “within three years”

Multi-gigabit wireless technology using of extremely high radio frequencies (RF) to achieve broad bandwidth and high data transmission rates over short distances will be ready within three years making wired computers and peripherals obsolete, a team of Georgia Tech scientists announced today.

Scientists at the institute’s Georgia Electronic Design Center (GEDC) expressed confidence that this approach could result in a range of personal area network (PAN) applications, including next generation home multimedia and wireless data connections able to transfer an entire DVD in seconds.

The research focuses on RF frequencies around the currently unlicenced free-for-all 60 gigahertz (GHz) range.

GEDC team have already achieved wireless data-transfer rates of 15 gigabits per second (Gbps) at a distance of 1 meter, 10 Gbps at 2 meters and 5 Gbps at 5 meters.

“The goal here is to maximize data throughput to make possible a host of new wireless applications for home and office connectivity,” said Prof. Joy Laskar, GEDC director and lead researcher on the project along with Stephane Pinel.

Pinel is confident that Very high speed, p2p data connections could be available potentially in less than two years.

The research could lead to devices such as external hard drives, laptop computers, MP-3 players, cell phones, commercial kiosks and others could transfer huge amounts of data in seconds while data centers could install racks of servers without the customary jumble of wires.

“Our work represents a huge leap in available throughput,” Pinel said. “At 10 Gbps, you could download a DVD from a kiosk to your cell phone in five seconds, or you could quickly synchronize two laptops or two iPods.”

Pinel added that users of multi-gigabit technology could wirelessly connect to any device that currently uses Firewire or USB.

Wireless high-definition video could also be a major application of this technology as users could keep a DVD player by their side while transmitting wirelessly to a screen 5 or 10 meters away.

The biggest challenge for the team is to further increase data rates and decrease the already-low power consumption, as they aim to double current transmission rates by next year.

The Georgia Tech team is seeking to preserve backward compatibility with the WiFi standard used in most wireless LANs today.

GEDC researchers are pursuing this goal by modifying the system architecture to increase intelligence and effectiveness in the CMOS RF integrated circuits that transmit the data using CAD tools and testbed equipment to recalibrate system models and achieve the desired improvements in speed and functionality.

Investigators are placing special emphasis on implementing an RF concept called single-input-single-output (SISO) / multiple-input-multiple-output (MIMO), which enables ultra-high data throughput while preserving backward compatibility with WLAN 802.11, the WiFi standard used in most wireless LANs today.

“We are pursuing a combination of system design and circuit design, employing both analog and digital techniques,” Pinel said. “It’s definitely a very exciting mixed-signal problem that you have to solve.”

Pinel is quick to point out that a multi-gigabit wireless system would present no health concerns as the transmitted power is extremely low, in the vicinity of 10 milliwatts or less and the 60 GHz frequency is stopped by human skin and cannot penetrate the body.

The team admits that the fact that multi-gigabit transmission is easily stopped means that line-of-sight is essential, and this could be a stumbling block in practical settings.

According Laskar, representatives of the ECMA International computer-standards organization met at GEDC in February to discuss a new international 60 GHz standard and again in October to finalize the technical decisions.

The IEEE, the leading international association of electrical engineers, is also weighing a 60 GHz standard, to be called 802.15.3C.

“The promise of multi-gigabit wireless is tremendous,” Laskar said. “The combination of short-range functionality and enormous bandwidth makes possible a whole range of consumer and business applications that promise great utility.”

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