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ECE Professor and ComSenTer Director, Mark Rodwell interviewed in IEEE Spectrum article “It’s Never Too Early To Think About 6G”

June 1st, 2018

ieee spectrum logo with 6g image
UCSB is lead institution of the Center for Converged TeraHertz Communications and Sensing (ComSenTer) – a multi-university research effort into the fundamentals of what 6G might look like

5G will utilize higher frequency spectrum than previous generations in order to improve data rates and insomuch as anyone has an idea of what 6G might look like, it’s a good bet that it will take that same tack.

“It’s not clear what 6G will be,” says Sundeep Rangan, the director of NYU Wireless, one of the institutions participating in ComSenTer. “If it is the case that 6G or other communications systems can benefit from very, very high frequency transmissions, we need to start looking at that now.”

Rangan adds that, “It’s premature to say that what we’re looking at will definitely be part of 6G,” stressing that what’s being investigated now is still fundamental research.

Even so, Mark Rodwell, ComSenTer’s director and a professor at the University of California Santa Barbara, says there are a few key demonstration projects ComSenTer is looking into. The first involves building a base station that can handle the frequency ranges expected to be part of future generations of wireless. ComSenTer, which is being funded by the Semiconductor Research Corporation, a consortium of heavy-hitters like DARPA, IBM, and Intel, is focusing its efforts on the 140-gigahertz, 220-GHz, and 340-GHz frequencies—all significantly higher than the 3.4 to 3.8 GHz band being leveraged for 5G.

Rodwell envisions a base station that could emit up to a thousand beams simultaneously. “What you’re looking at is four surfaces, each capable of 250 simultaneous beams,” he says. If each beam provided 10 gigabits per second, a single base station could transfer 10 terabits every second.

The higher frequencies also present challenges for handsets. The higher-frequency receiver components must be packed more closely together, introducing a risk of overheating. Signal loss must also be addressed. “Packet loss is phenomenally extensive at these frequencies,” says Rodwell.

The third major challenge is a question of math. “When a signal comes in [from a particular] direction, it’s hitting all the antennas,” says Rodwell. “Massive numbers of beams mean a lot of number crunching. You’ve got to sort all that out.”

ComSenTer is part of the new $200 million, five-year JUMP (Joint University Microelectronics Program), a consortium of industry research participants and DARPA, administered by Semiconductor Research Corporation (SRC). The partnership will fund research centers at six top research universities: UCSB, CMU, Purdue, UVA, U. of Michigan and Notre Dame.

IEEE Spectrum – "It’s Never Too Early To Think About 6G" (full article)

Center for Converged TeraHertz Communications and Sensing (ComSenTer)

Rodwell's COE Profile