mmWave on the road to commercialization in the form factor of a smartphone
Mobile devices are becoming faster and stronger every year: their productivity, resolution of cameras and screens, the capabilities of applications being launched are increasing. Users spend more time with smartphones, and all this translates into a constant increase in data transfer volumes. So, according to Ericsson, now in the US, the average smartphone user consumes an impressive 7.2 GB of traffic per month (in Russia, by the way, not much less - about 6 GB), and by 2023 this volume will increase to 7 (seven!) time.
Accordingly, if the networks are not further developed, then they will simply choke, or, at a minimum, the average speed will fall seven times. Effectively increasing the capacity and throughput of networks can, in fact, be done in only one way: due to the radio frequency spectrum. The wider the bandwidth, the more data can be transmitted simultaneously. It remains only somewhere to take the free frequencies in the right quantity: this is where the millimeter range (mmWave) becomes relevant - that is, frequencies above 24 GHz.
Why didn’t millimeter range used before?
There is a problem with him, even two. The waves of the millimeter range, firstly, have a very modest radius of propagation due to strong attenuation even in the air. Secondly, the shorter the wavelength, the lower its ability to go around obstacles. For a millimeter wave, a blank wall can even be your hand holding a smartphone and blocking the antenna.
Engineers have long solved these problems and have come up with the use of an array of antennas and the so-called bimforming: the formation of a directional "beam" to increase its power with the help of antenna arrays. That is, we need antenna arrays - once, they need a few - two. For a long time it was believed that this is why mmWave cannot be used in mobile devices: they will be too cumbersome. Nevertheless, by 2018, Qualcomm was able to create QTM052 antenna modules that are smaller than a paper clip! Up to four of these modules are placed along the side faces of the case, making the smartphone remains thin. If you look at the pictures of 5G-smartphones that have “leaked” into the network, for example, Xiaomi Mi Mix 3, Vivo and Oppo, then you can see that they are no different in weight and size from the current smartphones that support only LTE.
The only known “flaw” that 5G-haters emphasize is the Qualcomm prototype (reference design of the smartphone). But if you look at the prototypes of previous generations of devices, you can see: these operating “mockups” have always been cumbersome enough - first of all, for the convenience of studying circuitry. However, it can only be called a “brick” conditionally: the device has dimensions of 160.0 × 73.8 × 9.5 mm.
Where, how and why should mmWave be used?
The main scope of mmWave - mass events at stadiums, in concert halls, exhibitions, etc. In such a model, typical problems of propagation of millimeter waves are insignificant: there are no losses associated with the signal passing through the walls, no signal absorption by foliage or rain, or extinction at a great distance: the base station is always located no more than a couple of tens of meters from the subscriber. But there are many advantages: due to the better directivity of antennas and spectral efficiency, as well as the ideal beam forming, the problem of network capacity (the same network that most often “lies” during public events) is perfectly solved. In this case, mmWave will be used as an addition to the existing LTE network.
Experiments show that, for example, for a music event in open space, adding 16 5G-NR sectors (800 MHz of spectrum) to 38 (!) LTE sectors (50 MHz of spectrum) provides a tenfold increase in capacity, a 100-fold increase in throughput and a real average transmission rate data in 233 Mbit / s.
This, in turn, allows you to create new cases of using mobile communication - from placing wireless monitors on which you can see, for example, each of the musicians close, to instant personalized replays of various sports fragments or even the opportunity to be on the field through a VR helmet and see the game through the eyes of a favorite player. For realistic images, such helmets will have a resolution of 1920 × 1920 per eye with HDR and 10 bits per color channel, as well as a refresh rate of 60 frames per second. This requires a speed of 60–90 Mbit / s per user with peaks greater than 100 Mbit / s and delays of less than 20 ms, so that there is no noticeable “lag” when moving the head.
If you move away from the subject of mass events, then 5G will allow, for example, to navigate in the city with the help of augmented reality. And all this will happen in real time on the current image from the camera, and not on a static picture, so instant full-buffer loading of the neural network is required for image analysis and “pulsing” downloads of small packets, for which delay is also less than 20 ms, otherwise movement of the smartphone and changing the image in the field of view of the camera data will not have time to load.
And of course the game. It's not just about low-ping multiplayer games, but also about completely new types of games, such as “virtual paintball,” in which players get a smartphone instead of paint markers and shoot virtual weapons, and the software recognizes player images and knows exactly who who hit In this case, it is possible to supplement the real world with virtual objects, for example, the same first-aid kits, armor or additional weapons and ammunition.