NYU Wireless to Build 5G Programmable Platform with NSF Funding
Wednesday, January 20, 2016 | Comments

The NYU Wireless research center announced it will build an advanced programmable platform to rapidly design, prototype and validate technologies vital for the millimeter wave (mmWave) radio spectrum, potentially key to launching the next ultra-high data rate generation of wireless communications.

Funded by a National Science Foundation (NSF) program that supports exploratory work on potentially transformative research, the platform will be one of the first of its kind available to researchers from academia, government and industry who are driving the early stages of mmWave 5G technology.

Millimeter wave communication relies on highly directional transmissions in which energy is concentrated in narrow beams. Current mmWave prototyping systems use directional horn antennas mounted on mechanically rotatable gimbals. These mechanical systems are too large and slow for mobile applications. The new software-defined radio (SDR) platform will integrate an electrically steerable phased array with no physically moving parts and near-instantaneous steering.

Equipment from NYU Wireless affiliate sponsor SiBEAM, a Lattice Semiconductor company, will provide the RF front end for this test bed. Equipment from another NYU Wireless affiliate sponsor, National Instruments (NI), will provide a high bandwidth and massive baseband processing system to create mmWave prototypes capable of high data rates and very low latency.

Both SiBEAM and National Instruments (NI) will provide engineering support to New York University researchers. As part of the program, support will be provided for the system’s release to other university and industry groups to speed development of mmWave technology. The mmWave spectrum above 10 GHz could provide 200 times the capacity of all cellular spectrum allocations, and 5G is projected to become more than 1,000 times faster than 4G, a statement said.

“The development of an open-source, powerful SDR platform will greatly speed the development of mmWave systems and allow academic and industry groups to bring design ideas to reality,” said Sundeep Rangan, NYU Wireless director and associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering. “This project was only possible by leveraging the unique expertise of companies such as NI and SiBEAM and with crucial support from NSF.”

Rangan is the lead researcher for the project, which received approximately $100,000 for equipment as part of the NSF Early-concept Grant for Exploratory Research (EAGER). In addition, NYU Wireless founder Theodore (Ted) S. Rappaport is a co-leader on the project and developed many earlier mmWave systems with NI. Aditya Dhananjay, a postdoctoral fellow at NYU Wireless and the NYU Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences, will lead development.

“The National Science Foundation views the availability of open-source, programmable wireless platforms as a critical part of the next-generation wireless innovation ecosystem,” said Thyaga Nandagopal, program director at the NSF. “We consider this project as one that will provide such a capability for millimeter-wave wireless networks, building upon our prior investments in enhancing the research infrastructure in this arena.”

The first version of the system will operate in the 60 GHz band, one of several that the FCC, using input and research from NYU Wireless and others, decided to regulate to move mmWave technology toward commercialization.

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