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What is mmWave and How Does it Enable 5G?

world map with 5g in front a wave

mmWave is advanced technology added to the latest standard 5G released in 2020. mmWave technology enables 5G to efficiently use frequency bands above 6GHz or frequencies that were previously believed unsuitable based on signal strength and signal blockage. mmWave advancements and new antenna technology better enable a higher signal strength and offer a larger variety of deployment options.

mmWave characteristics include a data rate of 10 Gbps or greater and frequency bands that are split into two categories: < 40 GHz and 40 GHz to 100 GHz. Signal distances include 2 meters indoors and 300 meters outdoors with an overall latency of 1 ms. mmWave also provides massive MIMO support for 5G.

mmWave enables 5G to become the long-term solution for all future wireless communication domains. Business, industry, and consumer use can use the increase in bandwidth to experience higher speeds regardless of traffic or additional subscribers. Additionally, coverage is not limited to line of sight because mmWave enables an effective scatter path. mmWave provides the ability for 5G to serve a wider range of users simultaneously with top speeds and lower latency.

Key Takeaways

  • What is mmWave?
  • What are the benefits of using mmWave for 5G?
  • How does mmWave work in 5G?
  • Learn the characteristics of 5G mmWave.
  • Discover the challenges of mmWave.
  • Find out how mmWave benefits 5G implementation and service levels.

This guide describes how mmWave technology enables 5G to become the preferred type of wireless communication for both business and consumer use.

What is mmWave?

mmWave stands for millimeter waves. mmWave is cellular technology that provides the 5G system access to larger frequency bandwidths with greater capacity using millimeter waves. Currently, mmWave is the reason 5G technology is spreading rapidly and providing reliable, high-speed access to larger business and personal network systems successfully.

Millimeter wave is also known as a millimeter band, or the band of spectrum with frequency wavelengths between 10 millimeters (30 GHz) and 1 millimeter (300 GHz). mmWave is defined as an EHF (extremely high frequency) band by the International Telecommunication Union {ITU).

mmWave enables 5G to be used within a broader range of both products and services using mobile and wireless networks. mmWave allows for the high-speed transmission of larger data loads at the lower frequency levels used in Wi-Fi and cellular networks.

What are the Benefits of Using mmWave for 5G?

High network speed is the primary benefit of mmWave 5G. The higher speed comes from a high bandwidth capable of transmitting larger amounts of data continuously. The amount of data transmitted or received in unit time is greater in mmWave 5G system than in any other wireless network. High network speeds result in the lower latency of mmWave 5G networks. Additionally, the availability of spectrum resources means more for everyone within the network. In other words, less impact for users on each other and higher continuous network speeds.

Massive MIMO or multi-user MIMO (multiple-input multiple-output) technology available in mmWave 5G provides higher reliability for mobile network environments. Base stations are equipped with multiple antennas serving additional terminals simultaneously using the same frequency. Massive MIMO refers to the number of antenna arrays that enable reliable, consistent, and high-speed communication. Massive MIMO also operates in TDD (time division duplex) mode and enables systems to use downlink beamforming to exploit the reciprocity of radio wave propagation and make the system scalable up and down as needed. Additionally, each Massive MIMO base station operates autonomously without sharing payload or channel information with other cells in the network.

The lower latency of 5G with mmWave enables real-time services or cloud-based computing systems. Real-time data transmission and communication are essential when using cloud-based systems for both consumer and business needs. Data-intensive applications require the wider bandwidth possible with 5G mmWave. For example, systems transmitting and receiving large continuous data loads like autonomous vehicles, traffic management systems, education delivery, telemedicine, and virtual reality systems. Any mobile or web application used by consumers or businesses provides an improved user experience when using mmWave 5G networks.

Other benefits of using mmWave 5G include:

  • Improved security features
  • Suitable for use with small cells for greater reliability and lower latency
  • mmWave enables 5G networks to support multi-Gigabit backhaul to 400 meters and cellular access from 200 to 300 meters
  • Increased scalability to modify the network to improve service levels and support larger network loads
  • Higher ROI for providers and network operators worldwide with a larger variety of deployment options

How Does mmWave Work in 5G?

The applications for 5G using mmWave technology expanded rapidly with the recent COVID-19 pandemic. Suddenly, network traffic expanded from both business and consumer use. 5G responded by enabling high-speed and reliable networking using FWA (fixed wireless access), especially where fixed line services such as DSL, cable, and fiber are limited or non-existent. Additionally, 5G with mmWave offers a viable alternative to fixed-line networks regardless of location. With the higher speed, continuous reliability, and ability to transfer large data sets faster, 5G using mmWave technology enables equitable, lower-cost network access for both consumers and the business sector.

Now 5G with mmWave technology can provide gigabit speeds and eliminate the need for fixed-line systems. The network capacity of 5G mmWave has increased significantly and enables 5G networks to provide a higher level of user experience, especially with video streaming services. No more waiting for the system to respond, or frequent interruptions in service.

With the 5G mmWave network’s ability to use small cell systems, it means 5G networks can be easily deployed to outdoor and urban or suburban environments. For example, 5G access is possible in all public spaces and venues with no need for fixed wire systems. In this manner, 5G with mmWave better supports mission-critical control applications. Mission-critical applications include autonomous vehicles, vehicle-to-vehicle, and drone communication in real time. With a latency of around 1 ms, 5G with mmWave enables applications to run continuously with superior performance and reliability.

mmWave 5G networks can also leverage small cell technology to provide reliable, high-speed network access in offices, shopping malls, and any other indoor space. Small cells support higher data transmission levels and provide seamless integration with cloud computing systems. Users no longer need to experience dead zones indoors with mmWave 5G. More bandwidth across nearly any location enables 5G to provide reliable network access to anyone, anywhere with reduced interference and greater network speeds.

Challenges of mmWave

With every new technology comes room for further innovation and improvement. mmWave 5G technology is not immune from facing challenges. Oddly enough, the most significant issues occur because of water.

5G mmWave performance is negatively affected by rain or high humidity. Why water? Millimeter waves can be absorbed by gases and moisture in the atmosphere. Although the 5G signal is not eliminated, the speed of the network is reduced. Rain fade is the condition where rain or humidity reduces signal strength and propagation distance. Most consumers or businesses notice slower speeds and occasional connection problems. How badly the network is affected depends on how far the user is from the base station range, and how much moisture collects on the mmWave base station.

Another challenge for 5G mmWave is it travels by line of sight. Line of sight can be blocked or obstructed by physical objects such as trees or buildings. The same thing can happen with humans and animals because of their higher water content. Typically, 5G mmWave networks employ Massive MIMO that eliminates the need for waves to travel using line of sight. For example, even if the mmWave cannot penetrate walls, it can be designed to bounce around walls and provide effective high-speed access and reliable network coverage.

mmWave Enables 5G

5G mmWave technology enables a new, innovative method of combining communication links with a new spectrum. Millimeter waves with their high-frequency, short wavelength waves enable the transmission of large amounts of data continuously with improved security. 5G mmWave enables 5G to replace more traditional network systems with its ability to provide reliable, high-speed networking both for fixed-line users and those outside fixed-line service areas.

5G mmWave networks enable a network not limited by speed, reliability, cost, or frequent latency. The benefits of mmWave 5G eliminate the previous 5G issues with signal propagation, signal strength, and the inability to handle large data sets effectively. Using mmWave, 5G moves forward and can become the future of networking both for businesses and consumers.

Although 5G mmWave has a couple of challenges, the benefits outweigh them while innovation works to address these challenges in the future. High speed, low latency, and improved security are all definitive benefits of 5G using mmWave. Massive MIMO and small cell technology advantages help to propel 5G with mmWave as the future answer for all networking needs.

Additionally, 5G with mmWave’s ability to provide scalable networking enables 5G with mmWave to become the answer to all networking needs without sacrificing reliability, security, or performance. Finally, the ROI for 5G mmWave technology opens the field to additional providers or subscribers that require a variety of deployment options. Lower latency and fewer interruptions continue to build and support a growing and loyal customer base for 5G mmWave network services.