60-GHz Personal Area Networks

MICINN (Ministry of Science and Innovation) TEC2009-13000

The capabilities of today’s WPAN (wireless personal area network) systems, namely Bluetooth, are increasingly insufficient to satisfy the ever growing volume of multimedia content and the transmission of high-definition video that will be necessary in future WPANs. Wireless local-area networks have served as an alternative for some applications, but they too fall short of what will be needed: efficient transmission at rates exceeding 1 Gbit/s. This necessarily requires a quantitative leap in bandwidth. Given the spectral efficiency achievable in wireless systems (a few bits/s/Hz at most), operating at several Gbits/s requires bandwidths of at least 1 GHz. In the traditional microwave bands, only ultra-wideband systems have access to bandwidth on that scale, but this is for the most part heavily used spectrum exposed to high levels of interference.

Fortunately, several GHz of spectrum (between 5 and 9 GHz on most parts of the world) are available in the vicinity of 60 GHz. This enormous amount of bandwidth offers a very attractive alternative for short-range wireless communication at extremely high bit rates.

Despite this tremendous potential, 60 GHz WPAN systems must face a number of technical hurdles that, altogether, present a serious research challenge. Signals suffer unusually high levels of attenuation and very high levels of noise on account of the wide bandwidth, which compound into potentially very low signal-to-noise ratios. In addition, the equipment exhibits a marked non-linear behavior under which the channel capacity is poorly understood. The optimum signal strategies, the role of signal relays, and the interference patterns, are other open topics of research. Altogether, the 60-GHz paradigm offers a complex but potentially very fruitful research landscape.

The overarching objective of this project is to make a substantial contribution in this emerging field by addressing al the aforementioned research challenges as detailed in the proposal.