New Cutting-Edge Technology Bridges the Digital Divide

Researchers achieve world-first data transmission capacity for 5G and next-generation networks.

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We use the Internet in nearly every aspect of our daily lives – when making video calls, telecommuting, playing online interactive games, interacting on social networks or using smart TVs. All these uses require ever-increasing amounts of data to be transmitted. However, at the current rate of increase, today’s state-of-the-art networks will soon be unable to support demand. 

Existing wireless networks operating at microwave frequencies are already congested, with a bandwidth too narrow to support multigigabit data rates. Optical fibre networks, on the other hand, cannot be deployed in some rural and suburban areas due to high costs and geographical considerations. These two challenges limit internet access for many parts of society, reinforcing the digital divide.

The EU-funded project TWEETHER sought to bridge this divide by introducing a new wireless network concept that harnesses millimetre wave technology. To do this, a team of scientists and engineers from Germany, Spain, France and the United Kingdom developed a novel wireless W-band (92-95 GHz) transceiver. Less than three years since the project began, the TWEETHER team has succeeded in demonstrating the first-ever real-world point-to-multipoint data transmission within the millimetre wave spectrum. 

Lying between the microwaves and the infrared waves, millimetre waves are extremely high-frequency electromagnetic waves in the 30 to 300 GHz frequency (10 to 1 mm wavelength) range. Thanks to their potential to meet the growing demand for bandwidth and high-speed communication needs, millimetre waves are being used to test 5G wireless broadband technology.

High-speed data transmission demonstrated

The project’s cutting-edge technology was tested at project partner Polytechnic University of Valencia in Spain. The field test showed that up to 10 Gbit of data could be transmitted per second over a large area to base stations for mobile networks or broadband fixed wireless access networks. 

“The development of European technology at millimetre wave aims to solve two major challenges of modern communications,” said Prof. Claudio Paoloni of project coordinator Lancaster University in a news release posted on the ‘EurekAlert!’ website. According to Prof. Paoloni, the first challenge involves finding a way to “wirelessly transmit to and from a grid of new 5G small cells networks,” and the second concerns the digital divide affecting millions of houses with no broadband access in areas where optical fibre networks can’t be deployed.

The project team’s achievement paves the way for lower cost and higher flexibility in data transmission than can be gained with optical fibre. Furthermore, it makes broadband delivery possible in areas where fibre can’t be deployed because of high costs. 

The new TWEETHER (Traveling Wave Tube based W-band Wireless Networks with High Data Rate, Distribution, Spectrum and Energy Efficiency) technology will be used in 5G networks and is open to telecommunication operators and vendors interested in the technology.

For more information, please see: TWEETHER project website