Image courtesy of Thinkstock

(Image courtesy of Thinkstock).

Making Modulation Work for Smartphones and Sensors

Looking to accelerate 5G development, a group of researchers is devising an air interface that defines how information is transmitted between devices over sub-6 GHz frequency bands. The group includes engineers from Alcatel-Lucent, Huawei, Intel, Orange, Telecom Italia, Nokia, and other companies.

The two-year project is called Fantastic-5G, an neat acronym for the unwieldy phrase “Flexible Air iNTerfAce for Scalable delivery wiThin wIreless Communication networks of the 5th Generation.” The air interface aims to provide greater network capacity for not only smartphones but also Internet of Things devices like connected sensors, wearables, and autonomous cars.

Fantastic-5G is looking to replace Orthogonal Frequency-Division Multiplexing (OFDM), the modulation scheme used in 4G networks. While the OFDM waveform is only optimized for smartphone data, the new interface will have to support devices ranging from low-end sensors to high-end tablets. The organization is also trying to make the interface scalable to millions and billions of devices.

The researchers also want the air interface to be upgradable. The first 5G networks are not expected to be commercialized until 2020, but they will have to operate in currently licensed spectrum bands below 6 GHz. Higher frequency operation will have to wait until the mobile technology catches up. For that reason, the air interface must be flexible enough to be upgraded over the years.

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