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June 04, 2013

Superfast 5G Works with Handsets in Motion, According to Samsung

A few weeks back, I wrote about Samsung’s breakthrough in 5G technology. At the time, the company said that the time from the breakthrough to actually being a usable service would still be several years away. Basically, Samsung found a way to transmit large volumes of data using a higher frequency band.

One of the facts that made many researchers cynical was the fact that the high frequency signal can be easily blocked. It would be very difficult to produce a consistent signal to a moving handset. The group leader for the 5G project says that successful tests were conducted in the Samsung labs.

Apparently, the tests showed that the 5G technology was effective in delivering data to someone who was moving at a runner’s pace. The pace was almost five miles per hour. The test results also indicated that the wireless link could reach almost 220 yards. These were the same results even if there was no direct line-of-sight.

The test was conducted with a transmitter mounted on an outside wall at the third floor level of an 11 story concrete building. The receiver was moving around with part of the building blocking the signal. According to Wonil Roh who is the head of the advanced communications laboratory at Samsung’s R&D center, said, “The bottom line is that we had some very encouraging tests which demonstrate how fast our beam-forming and tracking technology is working.”

Roh made these comments in an interview with MIT Technology Review. The Review, however, did not publish any of the results described in Samsung’s announcement. Researchers are waiting to see published information. The feeling is that it is difficult to assess the technology until Samsung can actually show how it scales to accommodate real users in real settings.

Here is something that I did not know. Although Samsung considers what they are doing as part of a “core technology” for a possible future 5G standard, it seems that only the International Telecommunications Union, an agency of the United Nations, can formally declare a new 5G standard.

The director of the wireless research lab at Rutgers University equated the major players in wireless technology as being in a beauty contest. Everyone wants to make the fastest radio and win the contest. The problem is that this new technology cannot just be about speed.

Cellular customers are going to demand that they get greater coverage, fewer dropped calls and lower latency in delivering data. To make all this happen will require that all the transmission equipment is upgraded on all cellular networks.

Right now, Samsung has performed their tests using 64 antennas in both the transmitter and receiver. The signal is quickly switched on each depending on which antenna gets the clearest signal. According to Samsung’s patent filing, this is called “beam-forming.”  You can read all the details on the patent numbered US 20110182174 A1.

Unless Samsung finds a better way to avoid obstructions such as people, buildings and yes even the raid from diverting the signal that means that they will have to include 64 antennas into each mobile device. You can see that 5G technology is not going to be available tomorrow, but Samsung is making some pretty impressive strides and showing success.

Edited by Rich Steeves

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