Fraunhofer and EU work on 6G communications

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According to the Fraunhofer Institute, it is becoming apparent that the data rates expected from 5G communications systems will not meet the needs of users and industry for very long. Looking to solve the issue, Fraunhofer researchers are working on 6G as part of the EU sponsored TERRANOVA project.

The project, which runs until the end of 2019, will be working on ways of embedding terahertz wireless technology into fibre optic networks and developing new frequency bands. The goal is to create a network connection in the terahertz frequency range that is sufficiently stable to allow for wireless data transmission at up to 400Gbit/s.

While such data rates can be provided using fibre optic technology, Fraunhofer says that not only is this expensive, it also fails to address the challenge of how to achieve such high data rates on mobile devices.

“As a rule of thumb, the lower the frequency, the less the available bandwidth. To achieve the same wireless data rates provided by fibre optics, we need to be transmitting on frequencies in the terahertz range. 4G operates on frequencies of between 800 and 2600MHz, which give a bandwidth of up to 1Gbit/s. With terahertz frequencies, on the other hand, there is enough bandwidth to achieve data rates of up to 400Gbit/s,” explains project lead Dr Thomas Merkle of Fraunhofer IAF. “As a result, we are working on a transfer from optic to wireless data transmission. In other words, we want to fully exploit the potential of fibre optics without restricting it to cable connections, but rather transferring it to wireless transmissions.”

Fraunhofer says there are many challenges to overcome on the way to the 6G standard, both in terms of the individual components and the way in which all the network components interact. To address these challenges, two Fraunhofer Institutes are working on core tasks. Fraunhofer IAF is focusing primarily on wireless transmission and the integration of wireless modules at chip level, including how to integrate a baseband interface with the fibre optic network and transmit the signals to the chip. Fraunhofer HHI, meanwhile, is working on signal processing. Because this must take place extremely rapidly, special algorithms will be needed to make the process as efficient as possible.