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3 Months that Have Changed the World

3 Months that Have Changed the World
Posted 01/19/2016 by Theodore (Ted) S. Rappaport,Founding Director of NYU WIRELESS and the NYU Tandon School of Engineering David Lee/Ernst Weber Professor of Electrical Engineering

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For those of us who grew up watching Sputnik, the Mercury Mission and the race to the moon, the last 90 days in wireless research have evoked our childhood feelings of sheer excitement. First, in late October, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) decided to establish world-leading rules for the millimeter wave spectrum – concrete evidence that decades of research are indeed paving the road to potentially transformative technology.

And now the National Science Foundation has announced it will fund a software-defined radio (SDR) platform that will be publicly available to researchers from academia, government, and industry who are driving 5G through its infancy. Building this pioneering programmable platform for designing, prototyping and validating mmWave technologies will be led by NYU WIRELESS Director Sundeep Rangan in collaboration with two important affiliate sponsors. SiBEAM, a Lattice Semiconductor company, will provide the answer to one of the biggest challenges in 5G with its electrically steerable phased array with no physically moving parts and near-instantaneous steering.

The two main challenges in establishing mmWave links are achieving high directional gains to overcome the high path losses in mmWave bands, and being able to steer these directional beams efficiently. Existing mmWave testbeds use horn antennas mounted on motorized gimbals in experiments involving directional gains with steering. The main drawback of this approach is the exceedingly long steering time. Phased array antennas built with SiBEAM technology provide up to 23dBi of directional gain while providing steering times in the sub-microsecond regime. When combined with a powerful baseband processor based upon National Instruments (NI) technology, SiBEAM's phased array antennas will enable a powerful, flexible, and programmable platform for the design and validation of next-generation mmWave systems.

Researchers at NYU WIRELESS, SiBEAM and NI are already at work. Within 18 to 24 months, we expect to produce a high-bandwidth SDR reference design based on NI’s baseband processors and SiBEAM's 23dBi phased array antennas. This project will foster ground-breaking work by enabling researchers to move from the domain of performing simulations to actually building mmWave links, running experiments over the air, and being able to validate designs and test their performance.

And we’re not stopping at hardware. NYU WIRELESS researchers hope to soon release a step-by-step procedure to implement small-scale channel impulse response models for mmWave frequencies of arbitrary bandwidth and with arbitrary antenna beamwidth (including omnidirectional antennas). The novel modeling approach and simulation method will faithfully recreate all of the data we have measured over the past several years in New York City. We hope it will be used by the global research and development community and that it can be widely implemented in products and simulations.

As we used to say in the 20th Century: It’s liftoff time. And this time everyone should hop aboard.

Theodore (Ted) S. Rappaport

FOUNDING DIRECTOR, NYU WIRELESS Research Center, NYU Tandon School of Engineering

Theodore (Ted) S. Rappaport is the David Lee/Ernst Weber Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at New York University's Tandon School of Engineering and is a professor of computer science at New York University’s Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences. He is also a professor of radiology at the New York University School of Medicine.

Rappaport is the founding director of NYU WIRELESS, one of the world’s first academic research centers to combine wireless engineering, computer science, and medicine. Earlier in his career, he founded two of the world’s largest academic wireless research centers: the Wireless Networking and Communications Group at the University of Texas at Austin and the Mobile and Portable Radio Research Group, now known as Wireless@Virginia Tech. He has founded two companies, both sold to publicly traded firms, that have pioneered some of the technologies now used in the wireless industry.

Rappaport is a pioneer in the fields of radio wave propagation for cellular and personal communications, wireless communication system simulation, analysis and design, and broadband wireless communications circuits and systems at millimeter wave frequencies. His research has influenced many international wireless standard bodies over three decades, and he and his students have invented measurement equipment, simulation methodologies, and analytical approaches for the exploration and modeling of radio propagation channels and communication system design in a vast range of spectrum bands for emerging wireless systems. He also invented the technology of site-specific radio frequency (RF) channel modeling and design for wireless network deployment--a technology now used routinely throughout the wireless industry. More recently, his work in 5G wireless communications has explored the millimeter wave (mmWave) bands for future broadband access.

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