As smart phones and other wireless devices become ever more prevalent, the amount of data flowing through wireless networks is rapidly increasing. This data flow eventually connects back to the Internet, typically via cell towers that connect to base stations through fiber optic cables. As demand increases, bottlenecks in the base stations can occur and cause delays, but simply laying more cable isn’t always feasible. Instead, interest is growing in ways to send information at very high rates—tens or hundreds of gigabits per second—across high frequency (60-100GHz) microwave wireless links.
Electrical and Computer Engineering Professor Akbar Sayeed is developing a new type of this kind of wireless link. Along with Assistant Professor Nader Behdad, Sayeed is designing a hybrid analog-digital architecture for communicating information. Initial results suggest an order of magnitude improvement in power and bandwidth efficiency over current technologies.
Sayeed’s technology will combine the benefits of a variety of current antenna systems. The new architecture will take the form of a dish illuminated with feed antennae precisely controlled to send multiple beams containing multiple independent data streams, allowing for significantly increased data rates. Sayeed also will createa new kind of analog-digital interface to map the digital signal streams onto the dish surface to multiplex (combine) data in streams in various directions.
The new dishes could form a network of high bandwidth wireless links, which cannot be done with current technologies. This network could provide high bandwidth links to rural areas in the United States or developing countries. The technology also can route data to base stations with lower traffic, which would ease bottlenecks in metro areas, and take better advantage of the available electromagnetic spectrum.
Sayeed is committed to finding cost-efficient ways to develop the technology. The Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation has provided initial funds for a prototype, which he anticipates will be complete in the next couple of years. Once a working prototype is ready, several companies associated with major service providers could partner with Sayeed to commercialize the technology.