Electrical engineers from the University of California, Irvine have created a brand-new wireless transceiver that can hike up radio frequencies to 100 gigahertz, four times the speed of the soon to be launched 5G wireless communication standard. Categorized as an “end-to-end transmitter-receiver,” by the team in UCI’s Nanoscale Communication Integrated Circuits Labs, the small 4.4-millimeter-square silicon chip can produce signals noticeably faster, and it’s more energy-efficient due to its unique analog design. The team’s invention is published online and can be found in the IEEE Journal of Solid-State Circuits.


The transceiver that could change how wireless data works was developed by (from left) Payam Heydari, director of UCI’s Nanoscale Communication Integrated Circuits Labs and professor of electrical engineering & computer science; and lab members Hossein Mohammadnezhad, and Huan Wang, a doctoral student. (Image Credit: Steve Zylius | UCI)


“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.”


Researchers from academic institutions and communications circuit engineers have always been curious about whether or not wireless systems have the ability to match 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. Heydari and his team have come up with a new transceiver as a solution, which is able to exceed 5G’s standard of 28 – 36 gigahertz, enabling it to meet 6G standard of 100 gigahertz and higher.


The transceiver can reach a frequency of 100 gigahertz, exceeding the frequency of 5G and fiber-optic cables. (Image Credit: Steve Zylius | UCI)


“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 which this year earned a Ph.D. in electrical engineering & computer science. “Our new transceiver is the first to provide end-to-end capabilities in this part of the spectrum.”


Transmitters and receivers that will be able to handle high-frequency data transfers will be critical in the future when using the new wireless technology for autonomous vehicles and improved broadband for streaming high-definition videos, movies, and other media content. Even though this has motivated tech gurus for years, progress has already been made. Changing the frequencies of signals via modulation and demodulation in transceivers has usually been accomplished through digital processing; however, engineers have noticed some physical limitations from this method.


“Moore’s law says we should be able to increase the speed of transistors – such as those you would find in transmitters and receivers – by decreasing their size, but that’s not the case anymore,” he said. “You cannot break electrons in two, so we have approached the levels that are governed by the physics of semiconductor devices.”

In order to overcome this problem, researchers utilized a chip architecture that is in tune with digital processing requirements by adjusting digital bits in both the analog and radio frequency domains. The layout of the transceiver allows it to use less energy than traditional systems, making it less costly, which would allow more consumers to use the transceivers.


According to Huan Wank, co-author and UCI doctoral student in electrical engineering & computer science and an NCIC Labs member, when the technology works with a phased array system, using numerous antennas to direct beams, it presents multiple disruptive applications when sending and receiving data.


He also stated, “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.”


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