CTO Series: 1 | Why mmWave technologies are the future of wireless

In the first blog of our new ‘mmWave and the 5G wireless revolution’ series, CTO and Founder, Ray McConnell explores how mmWave-enabled technologies outperform conventional sub-mmWave wireless technologies (such as Bluetooth or Wi-Fi). He explains how the lack of spectrum available to conventional sub-mmWave solutions is holding back progress and suggests why mmWave technologies provide the pathway to the future of wireless technologies.

Spectrum is a finite resource

Wireless technologies have become a vital part of the fabric of modern society – helping ensure the smooth running of businesses both in the private and public sector, access to entertainment, as well as ensuring successful communication pathways are available across the planet.

The straightforward usage of sub-mmWave wireless technologies such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, 4G or 5G, is one of the reasons their use has spread so far and so quickly across modern society so that almost anyone can access them easily. These sub-mmWave technologies have driven huge industries and consumer applications, and there is an expectation that over time people will want faster and cheaper versions of the same.

However, there are limitations to the use of sub-mmWave wireless technologies which impacts on their ability to meet the ever-expanding expectations of consumers. The main limitation is the need to acquire more spectrum to increase wireless capacity.

This is because wireless spectrum is a finite resource which has become very crowded and heavily regulated, and can come with infrequent bidding intervals of very high licence costs.

Addressing the lack of spectrum

In conjunction with sub-mmWave is the mmWave wireless technologies which has already driven successful industries such as Sat TV and radar, including car radar – an essential component for automated driving and passenger sensors. In fact, there are still huge amounts of mmWave spectrum available, which has been underutilised for decades and like the Wi-Fi revolution, a significant portion of the mmWave spectrum doesn’t require a licence. And going forwards where gigabit connectivity is now becoming a necessity, unlicensed 5G mmWave provides a solution to the problem of a lack of spectrum for sub-mmWave wireless technology. There is so much unlicensed spectrum available that just one mmWave band has more spectrum than most of the sub-mmWave bands all put together.

The advanced technologies needed to use mmWave are now becoming cost effective enough to expand its use widely and this means it will likely soon become as prevalent as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. These advanced technologies will also make using mmWave spectrum very straightforward, which history has shown to be essential to reach a wide audience that can easily utilise the technology to become a success.

mmWave has significant strengths but different characteristics

It is, however, important to realise that sub-mmWave wireless has technical characteristics that are different and its method of usage is assumed to carry over and expected to directly map onto mmWave technologies. While there are similarities, there are also important differences. It is important to consider mmWave technologies on their own merits which we will explore throughout this blog series.

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Read the next post in the CTO Series: mmWave and massive spectrum availability