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July 23, 2012

New York Poly Gets 5G Funding - 1,000 Times Capacity of 4G but Who is Counting?

Under the theory that there is no time like the present to create the future, it is good to know that researchers already have their eyes and brains clearly focused on what comes next in wireless. 

While the commercial wireless world frets over 4G challenges — deployments, business models, capacity issues, backhaul and Wi-Fi architectures, small cell siting and what to do about the tsunami of information about to hit Diameter signaling networks — it was recently revealed that researchers at Polytechnic Institute of New York University (NYU-Poly) have put together a powerful consortium of government and business support to lay the foundation for  5G cellular networks, and have obtained funding for their efforts.   

What is 5G likely to be? It is contemplated for starters that it could increase capacity by more than 1,000 times over 4G. Obviously when available it holds the real potential to literally change the way we use and relate to all of our personal and business devices and networks. Needless-to-say, the impact it could have in the areas of telemedicine and a variety of M2M solutions would be profound.

The team

In making the announcement, NYU-Poly noted that the National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded its team an Accelerating Innovation Research (AIR) grant of $800,000. This was matched by $1.2 million from the Empire State Development Division of Science, Technology & Innovation (NYSTAR), which is supporting the project based on its longstanding partnership with NYU-Poly’s Center for Advanced Technology in Telecommunications (CATT). Industrial partners include InterDigital, National Instruments (NI) and faculty startup company Asension Laboratories who are contributing not just money and brain power but also critical equipment.

NYU-Poly President Jerry M. Hultin stated that:

“This new collaboration will significantly accelerate the progress towards 5G, and it exemplifies the power of NYU-Poly’s philosophy of i2e – invention, innovation and entrepreneurship…The team is built of experienced faculty entrepreneurs and highly innovative researchers. Students will learn how to create products and companies, working beside these professors and researchers from blue ribbon companies.”

The project

The goal of the 5G project is to say the least extremely ambitious. Turning the science into realizable products is likely to take years.  In fact, don’t look for a 5G network in a neighborhood near you until around 2020. 

That said, the objective is being defined as developing a “smarter and far less expensive wireless infrastructure.” It will do so by using smaller, lighter antennas with directional beamforming to bounce signals off of buildings using the un-crowded millimeter-wave spectrum. Researchers say this spectrum provides 50 to 100 times more user capacity, is readily available and is attractive because it will be possible to build low-cost infrastructure and devices that can leverage it. It is why another objective of the team is to assist in the development of smaller, smarter cells and devices that can “cooperate rather than compete for spectrum.”

“Bandwidth-hungry devices are doubling wireless spectrum demand every 12 to 18 months,” said Professor Shivendra Panwar, principal investigator on the 5G project. “The 4G wireless networks increased the efficiency of spectrum usage, but this project pursues disruptive technologies that will significantly relieve the pressure.”

The term “disruptive” is one that unfortunately has become almost cliché in our industry. It is why when something like exploiting the availability of the millimeter-wave spectrum comes along it is worth of noting. This is disruptive. 

The project will be led by Professor Theodore (Ted) Rappaport. He recently joined the NYU and NYU-Poly faculty and is launching the world’s first academic research center that combines wireless communications with computing and medical applications, Wireless Internet Center for Advanced Technology (WICAT). Rappaport made the prediction that, “Millimeter wave communications are the next frontier of the wireless age…Early equipment is already on the market, and major corporations are investing substantially in the technology. This 5G project will offer tremendous value to the $1 trillion cellular industry, including helping to develop standards that will enable others to accelerate their research.”

The project is supported by the NSF’s AIR program, which creates research alliances between existing NSF-funded consortia and partners from the world of business and entrepreneurship. Awards are designed to accelerate the innovation of products, processes and/or systems built upon the research foundations of each consortium.

Research will be conducted at the WICAT facilities in Brooklyn, NY. WICAT is among the largest industrial-academic consortia supported by NSF and includes the University of Virginia, Virginia Tech, Auburn University, and The University of Texas at Austin.

As noted, like good wine it takes time for technology to mature. In other words, as with previous migrations from 2G to 3G and now 4G, service providers absolutely should not be waiting for the next big thing as an excuse to put off investing in 4G. The truth is they need to be ramping up investments not just in 4G LTE macro cellular technology, especially with the impending introduction later this year of the a 4G iPhone, but also in small cell technology to help ameliorate the capacity crunch already starring them in the face. However, a little side trip and maybe even a request to contribute and participate in the WICAT efforts certainly would seem to be wise and timely.

Want to learn more about today’s powerful mobile ecosystem? Then be sure to attend the
Mobility Tech Conference & Expo, collocated with ITEXPO West 2012 taking place Oct. 2-5 2012, in Austin, TX. Co-sponsored by TMC Partner Crossfire Media the Mobility Tech Conference & Expo provides unmatched networking opportunities and a robust conference program representing the mobile ecosystem. The conference not only brings together the best and brightest in the wireless industry, it actually spans the communications and technology industry. For more information on registering for the Mobility Tech Conference & Expo click here.

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Edited by Braden Becker

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