New wi-fi transceiver chip goes past 5G

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A new wireless transceiver increases the radio frequencies to 100 gigahertz, quadrupling the speed of the upcoming 5G or fifth standard for wireless communication, researchers report.

The developers at the University of California, Irvines Nanoscale Communication Integrated Circuits Labs, called the 4.4-millimeter-square silicon chip an “end-to-end transceiver” and can process digital signals considerably faster and more energy-efficiently its unique digital-analog architecture.

“We call our chip ‘beyond 5G’ because the combined speed and data rate we can achieve is two orders of magnitude higher than the capabilities of the new wireless standard,” says lead author Payam Heydari, director of NCIC Labs and professor of electrics Engineering & IT. “Plus, running at a higher frequency means you, me, and everyone else can get more of the bandwidth offered by the carriers.”

Build a better transceiver

Heydari says academic researchers and communications circuit engineers have long wanted to know if wireless systems can deliver the high performance and speed of fiber optic networks.

“If such a possibility could come into play, it would change the telecommunications industry, as wireless infrastructure offers many advantages over wired systems,” says Heydari.

His group’s answer is in the form of a transceiver that skips over the 5G radio standard – which is designed to operate in the 28 to 38 gigahertz range – to the 6G standard, which is expected to operate at 100 gigahertz and above.

“The Federal Communications Commission recently opened new frequency bands above 100 gigahertz,” says lead author and PhD student Hossein Mohammadnezhad, a PhD student at the time who has since received a PhD in electrical engineering and computer science. “Our new transceiver is the first to offer end-to-end functionality in this part of the spectrum.”

The future of wireless networks

Transmitters and receivers capable of handling such high-frequency data communications will be critical to ushering in a new wireless era dominated by the Internet of Things, autonomous vehicles, and vastly expanded broadband for streaming high-definition video content and content More.

While this digital dream has been driving technology developers for decades, stumbling blocks are emerging on the path to progress. According to Heydari, scientists have traditionally changed the frequency of signals through modulation and demodulation in transceivers using digital processing, but integrated circuit engineers have begun to realize the physical limits of this method in recent years.

“Moore’s Law says we should be able to speed up transistors – like those found in transmitters and receivers – by reducing their size, but that’s no longer the case,” he says. “You can’t divide electrons into two parts, so we’ve approached the levels determined by the physics of semiconductor devices.”

To get around this problem, the researchers used a chip architecture that significantly relaxes the requirements for digital processing by modulating the digital bits in the analog and high-frequency range.

According to Heydari, the transceiver not only enables the transmission of signals in the 100 gigahertz range, but thanks to its unique layout also enables significantly less energy consumption than current systems at a reduced overall cost, paving the way for widespread acceptance in the consumer electronics market.

The technology combined with phased array systems, which use multiple antennas to direct beams, enables a number of disruptive applications in wireless data transmission and communication, says co-author Huan Wang, a PhD student in electrical engineering and computer science and a member of the NCIC Labs.

“Our innovation eliminates the need for miles of fiber optic cables in data centers, so data farm operators can perform ultra-fast wireless transmissions and save significant hardware, cooling and power costs,” he says.

An article about the transceiver appears in the Journal of Solid-State Circuits.

TowerJazz and STMicroelectronics provided semiconductor manufacturing services to support this research project.

Source: UC Irvine

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