The December 2022 issue of IEEE Spectrum is here!

Close bar

The 5G Frontier: Millimeter Wireless

Almost limitless bandwidth beckons—if we can tame a wild region of the spectrum

3 min read
Opening illustration for Reflections department page.
Illustration: Dan Page

There is an eternal quality to how technology evolves. As existing areas get overworked, new frontiers open up at the fringes. Then innovators rush in to occupy the new territory before it, in turn, becomes overworked. There is an example of such a frontier today in wireless communications. IEEE’s 5G wireless initiative has the goal of serving many more users with much higher transmission speeds. But with the existing cellular bands tightly packed, where does all the required additional network capacity come from?

In contrast with the traditional radio-spectrum management view of scarce capacity, where a finite amount of spectrum must be divided up among users, communication theorists see wireless capacity as virtually unlimited. Capacity can be increased indefinitely by going to ever smaller cells and higher frequencies that offer more bandwidth, while greater efficiency can be achieved with advanced signal processing and new spectrum-sharing policies. Among all these approaches, the greatest immediate impact would be achieved by moving to the higher frequencies in the millimeter range—the region of 30 to 300 gigahertz, where bandwidth is available and plentiful.

Keep Reading ↓Show less

This article is for IEEE members only. Join IEEE to access our full archive.

Join the world’s largest professional organization devoted to engineering and applied sciences and get access to all of Spectrum’s articles, podcasts, and special reports. Learn more →

If you're already an IEEE member, please sign in to continue reading.

Membership includes:

  • Get unlimited access to IEEE Spectrum content
  • Follow your favorite topics to create a personalized feed of IEEE Spectrum content
  • Save Spectrum articles to read later
  • Network with other technology professionals
  • Establish a professional profile
  • Create a group to share and collaborate on projects
  • Discover IEEE events and activities
  • Join and participate in discussions

Why the Internet Needs the InterPlanetary File System

Peer-to-peer file sharing would make the Internet far more efficient

12 min read
Horizontal
An illustration of a series
Carl De Torres
LightBlue

When the COVID-19 pandemic erupted in early 2020, the world made an unprecedented shift to remote work. As a precaution, some Internet providers scaled back service levels temporarily, although that probably wasn’t necessary for countries in Asia, Europe, and North America, which were generally able to cope with the surge in demand caused by people teleworking (and binge-watching Netflix). That’s because most of their networks were overprovisioned, with more capacity than they usually need. But in countries without the same level of investment in network infrastructure, the picture was less rosy: Internet service providers (ISPs) in South Africa and Venezuela, for instance, reported significant strain.

But is overprovisioning the only way to ensure resilience? We don’t think so. To understand the alternative approach we’re championing, though, you first need to recall how the Internet works.

Keep Reading ↓Show less