6G Has Already Usurped 5G and It's Not Even Here Yet

An innovative chip design creates ultra-fast data processing that lowers energy consumption.

6G Has Already Usurped 5G and It's Not Even Here Yet
Closeup of silicon wafer c1a1p1c1o1m1/iStock

In an era of lighting-fast technological advances, the speed of innovation is almost brain-meltingly quick in the field of microchip wireless transmitters. The much anticipated 5G network hasn’t even fully rolled out and arrived yet and already there is much excitement about what is being dubbed “beyond 5G” technology—because it is quadruple the speed of the incoming 5G network. 

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The innovative architecture of the end-to-end transmitter is the source of its speed. The creators of the chip, scientists at the University of California, Irvine credit the design of the digital-analog silicon chip for its efficiency and processing power.

"We call our chip 'beyond 5G' because the combined speed and data rate that we can achieve is two orders of magnitude higher than the capability of the new wireless standard," said senior author Payam Heydari, NCIC Labs director and UCI professor of electrical engineering & computer science.

"In addition, operating in a higher frequency means that you and I and everyone else can be given a bigger chunk of the bandwidth offered by carriers."

Built for speed

The chip is a 4.4 mm silicon square with the ability to process digital signals faster and more efficiently than any other existing transmitter. The IEEE Journal of Solid-State Circuits has just published the UCI team’s findings.

Heydari said that academic researchers and communications circuit engineers have been searching for years to discover if wireless systems are capable of the high performance and speeds of fiber-optic networks. "If such a possibility could come to fruition, it would transform the telecommunications industry, because wireless infrastructure brings about many advantages over wired systems," Heydari said.

UC Irvine, School of Engineering
UC Irvine School of Engineering. Source: Mikejuinwind123/Wikimedia Commons

A whole new frequency

His group's answer is in the form of a new transceiver that leapfrogs over the 5G wireless standard—designated to operate within the range of 28 to 38 gigahertz—into the 6G standard, which is anticipated to work at 100 gigahertz and above.

"The Federal Communications Commission recently opened up new frequency bands above 100 gigahertz," said lead author and postgraduate researcher Hossein Mohammadnezhad, a UCI grad student at the time of the work who this year earned a Ph.D. in electrical engineering and computer science. "Our new transceiver is the first to provide end-to-end capabilities in this part of the spectrum."

Having transmitters and receivers that can handle such high-frequency data communications is going to be vital in ushering in a new wireless era dominated by the "internet of things," autonomous vehicles, and vastly expanded broadband for streaming of high-definition video content and more.

Break the system

NCIC Labs member and paper co-author Huan Wang said that the technology combined with phased array systems—which use multiple antennas to steer beams—allows for a number of disruptive applications in wireless data transfer and communication.

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"Our innovation eliminates the need for miles of fiber-optic cables in data centers, so data farm operators can do ultra-fast wireless transfer and save considerable money on hardware, cooling and power," he said.

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