January 31, 2023

5 Wireless Tech Trends to Keep on Your Radar in 2022 (Reader Forum)

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In an increasingly connected world, the need for data and network capacity has become the driver of wireless technology innovation. As the development of 5G technology progresses, connected systems will continue to grow in complexity and dependency on each other. This increase in connectivity creates the challenge of improving wireless capability across all bands from sub-1 GHz to mmWave and beyond.

As engineering organizations grapple with the performance and bandwidth challenges associated with 5G, 6G research and development is well underway, promising new use cases. 2022 will prove to be a pivotal year for major trends in wireless technology, including:

  • Mid-band enabled speed improvements over 4G
  • The expansion of 5G applications
  • Higher yield thanks to GaN and SiC technologies
  • Increased momentum of Open initiatives
  • Continuous research networks managed by Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Speed ​​improvements over 4G, enabled by mid-band

5G mmWave deployments were highly anticipated, promising faster than ever data speeds. However, the rollout of 5G mmWave has been slower than initially expected. Additionally, high-density areas experienced inconsistent performance in terms of speed, bandwidth, and latency. In 2022, we will continue to see carriers (and the 5G ecosystem) prioritize mid-band investments and take a less aggressive approach to mmWave. While mid-band doesn’t promise mmWave’s dramatic speed boost, users will still have access to more widely available incremental improvements over 4G.

Additionally, early sub-THz research will continue as an enabling technology for 6G with the promise of even wider bandwidths. Researchers will need to demonstrate not only feasibility, but also compelling new use cases to make this a priority for industry.

The expansion of 5G applications

Although 5G coverage is increasing, many sub-6GHz consumers do not experience an order of magnitude improvement over 4G performance. This is partly because for consumers, 4G has often provided sufficient performance and because 5G’s throughput improvements have been mostly achieved through elusive mmWave network deployments. However, with 5G, consumers are not the only target.

Going forward, operators will continue to explore exciting new use cases for evolving technology. This will incentivize new applications beyond Enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB) as Version 16 features for Ultra-Reliable Low Latency Communications (URLLC) are rolled out. URLLC will enable time-sensitive applications, some of the first of which will be seen in industrial IoT for factory automation, such as real-time robot control and AR/VR for maintenance and training. Combined with private networks, the URLLC enhancements in version 16 will allow enterprises to deploy highly reliable and high-performance networks.

Additionally, 5G-Advanced will become a trending topic when 3GPP initiates work on Version 18. Vehicle-to-everything (V2X) will continue to be a high priority for the transportation industry and crucial for enabling autonomous vehicles.

Superior performance, powered by GaN and SiC technology

While the pursuit of more power-efficient RF front-end performance has always been a goal of handset and infrastructure design, we are now seeing a tipping point in new process technologies. Driven by a combination of improved cost and performance, we continue to see a continued shift from silicon (Si) to gallium nitride (GaN) and silicon carbide (SiC) in RF front ends. This change will continue to help increase the energy efficiency of a myriad of appliances. This will have a significant impact on the 5G infrastructure as power amplifiers are positively impacted by this innovation. Electronic devices themselves will also be impacted by this trend and will eventually benefit from extended battery life.

Increased dynamism for open initiatives

The OpenRF Compliance Working Group published its first interoperability standard in December 2021. This marks a critical step towards an ecosystem of open RF front ends and 5G chipsets for 2022 and beyond. Establishing a development standard will help optimize configurations and specifications across the industry. Additionally, it will help manufacturers reduce costs, speed time to market, and take advantage of an improved supply chain across many mobile devices.

Additionally, carrier and government push for Open RAN will continue to advance interoperability and production testing. Commercial deployments, however, will still be minimal in 2022 as members work towards longer-term design gains.

Continuous research networks managed by Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Wireless technology will have a significant impact on artificial intelligence (AI) applications this year. In this space, one of the most important innovations is bringing software simulation closer to real life. In 2021, Northwest University achieved a major milestone by demonstrating real-time control of an AI-powered Open RAN cloud-native cellular network. Developing AI-managed networks has many benefits, including automation, optimized cloud architectures, increased security, and more. Advances in 2021 will allow researchers to collect large-scale datasets and perform experiments to bring AI-driven networks closer to reality.

2022 will prove to be a pivotal year in wireless technology, where 5G and 6G innovations promise new levels of connectivity. The combination of performance improvements, the benefits of open standards and increased energy efficiency will exponentially increase the potential for new applications enabled by 5G in 2022. As the industry continues to meet the growing needs In data bandwidth and the increase in connected devices, the connection encompasses people, ideas and innovative new technologies.

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