IBM and Ericsson reveal 5G tech 10 times more powerful than before

8 Feb 2017

Optical fibre cable. Image: Flegere/Shutterstock

IBM and Ericsson have revealed 5G tech that is 10 times more powerful than existing systems, paving the way for the future of autonomous vehicles and internet of things.

There is global race on between telecommunications providers and manufacturers to launch the first scaled 5G network. This aims to advance mobile data speeds for customers, as well as making vast internet of things (IoT) networks a reality.

IBM and Ericsson have announced the creation of a compact silicon-based millimetre wave (mmWave) phased array integrated circuit, far in advance of existing systems.

By transmitting at 28GHz on mmWave frequencies, connected devices on IoT networks, or even more immersive virtual reality, can communicate 10 times faster than existing mobile devices.

The module itself consists of four monolithic integrated circuits and 64 dual-polarised antennas. It is about half the size of a typical smartphone, making it more compact than previous systems.

One of the project’s biggest stumbling blocks was transmitting data over long distances at the 28GHz range, as each individual antenna would only be able to support short communication devices.

‘An important breakthrough’

However, by combining multiple tiny antennas, it not only increases the range, but also enables steering of signals in specific directions.

The researchers of this project said this will support data rates exceeding 10Gbps in certain scenarios, and will be ready for the first release of the 3GPP 5G specification, which is expected to arrive in 2018.

With low latency and low energy requirements, this 5G technology would potentially see a battery life of at least 10 years for remote cellular devices on IoT networks.

“The development of this 5G mmWave phased array is an important breakthrough, not just because of its compact size and low cost – which make it a very commercially attractive solution for network equipment companies and operators – but its potential to unleash and inspire brand new ideas and innovations we haven’t yet imagined, thanks to a fully networked society,” said Dr Dario Gil, VP of science and solutions at IBM Research.

In the meantime, Ireland is hoping to be the first country in Europe to roll out 5G geographically, as was announced by Communications Minister Denis Naughten, TD, in December last year.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic