Communications networks are constantly evolving, improving performance as new technologies arise all with the goal of delivering more bits/second. Wireless communications networks are no different, if not more difficult as the medium, air, is much more difficult to operate in than a cable or piece of fiber.
This drive, more bits/second, is the reason that 60GHz has been a gleam in the eye of the wireless community for years. With a whopping 14GHz of spectrum, more than all the lower bands combined.
Yet despite all the promise of multi gigabit systems the high frequency meant equipment deployed in this band had to be Line of Site; i.e. no obstacles at all. In addition, the high frequency pushed the technology, or should have, towards shorter range applications.
60GHz Take 1 – It Begins
Over the years there have been several attempts to introduce 60GHz gear and adopt 60GHz standards with little success. The WiGig Alliance founded in 2009 introduced 60GHz to the IEEE with the 802.11ad standard in 2012. In 2014 the WiFi Alliance adopted WiGig, or 802.11ad, as an industry standard certifying WLAN equipment and performing interoperability testing.
These efforts failed. The requirement for strict LOS operation in an indoor environment was too restrictive in the home or business environment. Simply walking in between a client and an 11ad AP broke the connection. In addition, APs with WiGig built in were much more expensive. On the order of hundreds of dollars more than a standard 2.4/5GHz AP.
60GHz take 2 – We try Again
The next time 60GHz appeared on the market was just a few years later with the introduction of IEEE 802.11ay in 2019. IEEE 802.11ay was a significant improvement over 11ad in efficiency, range and more. But… the standards team felt that this high frequency band suited for short range applications should be used outdoors at ranges of up to a mile. This decision was largely driven by the need to operate in strict LOS. The thinking went if we must be LOS, then that is easier to do this outdoors where we can mount devices high up on buildings, towers or even in some case streetlights. Right off the bat you are introducing tension between the nature of what the spectrum can readily support, short distances, and the LOS requirement.
This is even before we introduce oxygen absorption, the fact that O2 molecules resonate at 60GHz and hence absorb the radio waves attenuating them even more and restricting the range that can be supported even further.
This new standard was the foundation for the Terragraph system spec introduced by Meta (Facebook at the time) as an outdoor 60GHz industry organization. Qualcomm introduced a complete 60GHz reference design including modem, front end and antenna to reduce total cost and speed time to market for vendors.
These systems were point to multipoint meaning the AP or Base Station had to implement beam steering to overcome the loss in antenna gain when using 90 sectors as opposed to a very narrow high gain antenna used in point-to-point communications.
And this too failed to meet market adoption expectations.
Again, 60GHz is by its very nature a short-range frequency with the added obstacle of oxygen absorption when trying to push it to longer, outdoor ranges. Broadband Wireless Access systems rely on range as a way to cover more clients per Base Station in order to improve the economics. Hence the need to push these systems to the limits of their capabilities.
While some will argue that Terragraph still exists and is being sold and deployed by numerous vendors and service providers, the volumes are low. Terragraph never fulfilled the vision of Meta and others in the ecosystem and as of 2022 Meta backed away from Terragraph.
Home for 60GHz – indoor, wireless, point to point ethernet connectivity.
Using 60GHz indoors matches the inherent short range of these systems to an environment that is also short range. There are no requirements indoors for a 1-mile link. Its rare that you even see a 100m requirement. Indeed, when used as an alternative or augment to existing CATx deployments the distances required are much shorter, on the average of maybe 25 to 50 meters.
But you say, “Hey we just saw this with WiGig and you reminded us that this was a bust.” True, and remember that it was the LOS requirement that sank WiGig applications.
But what if you can overcome the LOS restriction? What if you had a 60GHz system operating as a point-to-point connection that could blast through interior walls? What if this same system was also able to beam steer over 90 degrees meaning it could go around corners?
If you had a such capabilities the whole calculus of 60GHz as spectrum that can act as an indoor cable extension or even replacement is upended. With the 14GHz of spectrum you now have the ability to offer capacities or 10, 20Gbps Full Duplex. If you can do these things you can:
- Equal the performance of CATx, but without all the labor installing cables
- Equal the performance of CATx but be deployed in a fraction of the time
- Equals the performance of CATx, but deliver the ultimate in network flexibility. Connections can be placed and moved easily.
The future of 60GHz is not just bright, but brilliant. The laws of physics, the higher the frequency the shorter the range cannot be broken. It has long been considered if not a law, certainly a corollary that any device operating at roughly 6GHz or above must be LOS. Today Airvine use 60GHz for short range communications where it is best suited and has blown away the LOS restrictions with our 60GHz, NLOS WaveTunnel product. Don’t believe it? Come learn more at Airvine.com