Researchers pursue 5G breakthrough in cell phone capacity

Have you ever wondered what lies beyond today's fourth generation (4G) wireless technology? Well, it's 5G, of course, but what does that really mean?

Researchers at Polytechnic Institute of New York University (NYU-Poly) intend to put some definition behind 5G. They have assembled a consortium of government and business support to advance toward 5G cellular networks that they say could increase cell phone capacity by more than 1,000 times.

The National Science Foundation has awarded the team an Accelerating Innovation Research grant of $800,000, matched by $1.2 million from corporate backers and the Empire State Development Division of Science, Technology & Innovation. Industrial partners include InterDigital, National Instruments and faculty startup company Asension Laboratories.

According to researchers, the 5G project will develop smarter and far less expensive wireless infrastructure by means of smaller, lighter antennas with directional "beamforming" to bounce signals off of buildings using the millimeter-wave spectrum, where more user capacity is readily available. It will also help develop "smaller, smarter cells with devices that cooperate rather than compete for spectrum," they added.

"Bandwidth-hungry devices are doubling wireless spectrum demand every 12 to 18 months," said Shivendra Panwar, principal investigator on the 5G project and professor in NYU-Poly's Department of Electrical and Computer and Engineering. "The 4G wireless networks increased the efficiency of spectrum usage, but this project pursues disruptive technologies that will significantly relieve the pressure."

"Millimeter wave communications are the next frontier of the wireless age," predicted Theodore Rappaport of the NYU-Poly faculty, who is also a professor at NYU's Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences and in the Department of Radiology at NYU Langone Medical Center. "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."

Hardware and software from corporate partners will serve as the test bed for the 5G research initiatives to be "proved quickly through rapid iteration capabilities," a NY-Poly statement noted.

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