Based on International Telecommunication Union (ITU) standards, to be classified as 3G, a network should be able to transfer data at 3.84 megabits per second (Mbps). To be classified as 4G, a network should be capable of transferring data at a rate of 100 Mbps. 5G is a leap higher — about 30 times faster than 4G — and it is merely hypothetical at this stage because the technology is still being developed and isn’t expected to be ready until 2020.
We might be contented to wait a few more years for 5G technology to materialize. But it looks like a team of scientists from Hiroshima University, Japan’s National Institute of Information and Communications Technology, and Panasonic Corporation intend to jump the gun and surprise us with technology that’s better than 5G, before 5G even hits the market.
The next-gen tech was presented in San Francisco, California at the recently held International Solid-State Circuits Conference (ISSCC). It’s a terahertz (THz) transmitter that’s capable of transferring digital data at astounding speeds of more than 100 gigabits per second (Gbps) at a frequency range of 290 – 315 gigahertz (GHz). At its peak performance, it can send data at 105 Gbps — that’s 10 times faster than what peak speeds through 5G mobile networks can theoretically achieve!
Last year, the research team led by Minoru Fujishima was already able to demonstrate that by using quadrature amplitude modulation, enhanced data transmission speeds are achievable through a wireless link on the 300 GHz band. This time, they’ve gone even further as they have shown that by using an integrated circuit, it is possible to achieve transmission speeds beyond 100 GHz. At that rate, it will only take a fraction of a second to transfer data that’s equivalent to the size of a single DVD (around 5GB).
Right now, we rely on fiber-optic technology for high-speed data rates. The thing is, optical fibers are made of glass, and that means when light passes through, the process slows down. A wireless transmitter will not have this problem. Although, the frequency range intended for use is still to be discussed (during the 2019 World Radiocommunication Conference) because it is currently unallocated but likely to be dedicated for future ultra-high speed wireless transmissions and communications.
While theirs is not the first transmitter to achieve data rates in the terahertz range, the team says the transmitter is the first to be based on a CMOS integrated circuit. This means that it’s economical to make and it’s also scalable so its commercial applications can range from small, portable devices to large base stations.
Further down the road, the team hopes their technology can be used to link cellular base stations and satellite communications. As Fujishima noted: this “is a very promising application because space cannot be linked by fiber optics.”