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2017

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Verizon and Korea Telecom demoed the first ever hologram call using their 5G networks. (Image credit Korea Telecom)

 

Earlier this month, Verizon and Korea Telecom tested the first international hologram-based video call over their respective 5G networks. The call was demoed during a meeting between Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam and KT CEO Hwang Chang-kyu who discussed expanding their partnership to advance the 5th generation infrastructure.

 

Both companies have been gobbling up spectrum licenses in the 30 and 40GHz range to better implement the 5G standard regarding throughput, which makes sense if you consider that hologram video calling requires massive bandwidth, which 3G, 4G, and LTE cannot provide. Of course, you’re also going to need an infrastructure that is capable of delivering that spectrum, and as a result, Verizon just dropped $1-billion in pocket change for fiber-optic cable from Corning. They plan on unspooling that cable in Boston and several other US cities over the next few years (2018-2020) as 5G takes hold.

 

As far as the numbers game goes, Verizon and KT aren’t the only communications companies spending big on the millimeter-wave spectrum as AT&T recently bought-out Straight Path Communications for $1.6-billion and grabbed FiberTower for an undisclosed amount. Both had extensive licenses in the 28 and 39GHz spectrum. Another major holder of spectrum licenses is Dish Network, who shelled-out $6.2-billion for titles in the 600MHz spectrum during the FCC’s Broadcast Incentive Auction held last week.

 

With all that money being dropped on spectrum licenses, we should be able to do much more than just making holo-calls, but it was an important first step in that it showed two separate 5G infrastructures could play well together and the connection only took 10-minutes to complete rather than days. As far as the tech used in the demonstration, it’s vague at best but my guess is they employed millimeter-wave devices (perhaps the Snapdragon X50 5G modem?) as KT have been developing hologram live calling over the past several years.

 

KT also says that the technology can work on today’s mobile devices without issue and doesn’t require any specialized displays to function. So no, we won’t be getting Star Wars-like hologram calling anytime soon, but the demonstration was still impressive, and KT expects to implement trial services of their 5G network in 2018 for the PyeongChang Winter Olympics and then as commercial service in 2019.

 

What’s interesting about Verizon’s and KT’s endeavors, is that there is currently no standard for 5G, just an outline of the what the technology should entail from the NGMNA (Next Generation Mobile Networks Alliance), however they do state 5G should roll out for the commercial and business markets by 2020.

 

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In it for the G- AT&T buys Straight Path for the increase in wave spectrum it needs to unleash 5G. (Image credit AT&T)

 

AT&T announced recently that it’s buying out Straight Path Communications to the tune of $1.6-billion in stocks to grab the airwaves it needs to advance their 5G endeavor. Chief strategy officer (Technology and Operations) John Donovan made a rather bold statement earlier this year about AT&T’s roadmap to the 5G horizon saying, “Our 5G Evolution plans will pave the way to the next-generation of higher speeds for customers. We’re not waiting until the final standards are set to lay the foundation for our evolution to 5G, we’re executing now.”

 

So what exactly does $1.6-billion (tax-free to boot) buy? 735 mmWave licenses in the 39GHz band and 133 in the 39GHz spectrum, both of which are considered the gold-zone for 5G implementation. AT&T states that those licenses cover the entire US, making it easy to rollout future 5G technologies. As part of AT&T’s 5G Evolution plan, the company collaborated with Nokia to demonstrate the feasibility of 5G technology by streaming DirectTV Now using mmWave hardware.

 

Of course, this isn’t AT&T’s first acquisition in the 5G realm as the company snagged the 24 and 39 licenses from FiberTower back in February of this year, giving them about the same chunk of pie as Verizon, who have also been gobbling up telecommunications companies like the Cookie Monster with a pallet of Chips Ahoy!. Their recent acquisition of XO Communications cost them $1.8-billion and net them a sizable share of the 28 and 39GHz spectrum.

 

It’s important to note that there currently is no 5G standard, only a footprint laid out by the NGMN (Next Generation Mobile Network) Alliance- a group of telecom companies, research institutes, vendors and manufacturers who gave us LTE, SAE, and WiMax. The footprint for that 5G standard they sketched-out is as follows:

 

    -Data rates of tens of megabits per second for tens of thousands of users.

    -Data rates of 100 megabits per second for metropolitan areas.

    -1Gb per second simultaneously to many workers on the same office floor.

    -Several hundreds of thousands of simultaneous connections for wireless sensors (IoT applications).

    -Spectral efficiency significantly enhanced compared to 4G.

 

Sounds great for those living in cities with office jobs but not so much for those living in rural areas. However, they would also like to expand coverage to those areas at some point (see: never), perhaps over a satellite network.

 

Remember AT&T's Bogarting of iPhones when they first launched in 2007? Perhaps they'll share with the other networks. Otherwise, they can charge whatever they want, like with the iPhones back then. Those 300-page bills were just crazy.

 

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Researchers from MIT and Chicago making denser chips with wires that partially build themselves. Faster technology requires better and faster microchips (Image via MIT)

 

As technology, such as computers, get faster and better, they require microchips that can keep up. The only problem is it’s becoming more difficult to create denser chips. Not only does it make the chips more fragile, but manufacturers also run into several limitations, like wavelengths of light used to create wire patterns. A team of researchers from MIT and Chicago may have overcome this challenge with their new, self-assembling chip.

 

This new method makes finer wires for chips by letting them partly build themselves, instead of using deliberate and slow ultraviolent or scanning processes. To make their chip, the team start with using an electron beam to make patterns on a chip. From there, they use a mix of two polymers, called a block copolymer, that separate into patterns naturally. The block copolymer contains chain-like molecules that each have two different polymer materials connected end-to-end.

 

Once the protective polymer coating is placed on top of the other polymers, it fires up the chemical vapor deposition (iCVD) process. This forces them to build themselves in a vertical manner that results in four wires. Generally, there would only be one. Each of the produced wires is a fourth as wide resulting in finer lines. Since the top polymer layer can be patterned, the method can produced any kind of complex patterning needed for the interconnections of a chip.

 

These results show promise when compared to standard methods of making chips. Not only does the method rely on extreme ultraviolent light, but it’s also expensive and a very slow process, which isn’t effective when making chips on a mass scale. This new method would not only cut down on time but on cost as well.

 

It might be a while before this method becomes the norm, but researchers predict it should be an easy transition. Current microchip manufactures still using the lithographic method don’t even have to change their machines to use the new method. It’s as simple as adding the coating in their current process. This would allow them to make denser chips without changing their current technology. With this new breakthrough, we don’t have to worry our technology is changing at such a fast pace, that other parts can’t keep up.

 

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