DLINK aims to put UK at forefront of wireless communications

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The three-year DLINK project, based around a collaboration between Lancaster and Glasgow universities, will exploit a so-far unused part of the wireless communications spectrum.

Increasing use of wireless devices for high data-rate applications such as video is leading to a need for better transmitters that can work over longer distances

DLINK is funded by the EPSRC and includes industrial partners such as Intel, BT, Nokia Bell Labs, IQE, Filtronic, Optocap, and Teledyne e2v. It uses the D-band part of the 5G spectrum, between 151 – 174.8GHz. Being very wide, it enables the transmission of high data rates, around 45Gb/s. The project aims to enable data transmission over distances of around a kilometre.

The problem with this transmission distance is the weather. Rain and other atmospheric conditions attenuate the signal. However, with the increasing ubiquity of wireless devices and demand for high data-rates applications such as video streaming (which is estimated will account for almost 3/4 of mobile data traffic within five years), there is a need for transmission technologies which do not require additional infrastructure such as fibre or transmitters on high roofs.

DLINK is led by Prof Claudio Paoloni, Cockcroft Chair and head of engineering at Lancaster University. Its primary aim is to develop a novel transmitter that will produce a signal that can withstand the atmospheric attenuation. Prof Paoloni is a specialist in devices known as vacuum travelling wave tubes, which greatly amplify the transmission power needed to enable new architectures of wireless high data rates networks using very high frequencies. The tubes will be paired with a novel oscillator, driven by a resonant tunnelling diode transmitter, which will be built by the Glasgow team led by Prof Edward Wasige.

The combination of vacuum wave tube and RTD transmitter is predicted to produce an order of magnitude greater output power, around 10W, than solid-state amplifiers working at the same frequency. No travelling wave tubes are currently available in the market working in the D-band. The challenges the team will face include affordable fabrication of millimetre-wave waveguides, which must have small dimensions and three-dimensional shapes.

“The huge growth of mobile data and consumer demand for video streaming, along with the Internet of Things, driverless vehicles, virtual reality and a multitude of other emerging technologies are going to require fibre-quality data speeds but delivered wirelessly and ubiquitously,” commented Prof Paoloni. “The DLINK project has the ambition to deliver new wireless technologies that will enable us to exploit the as-yet unused D-band part of the spectrum, and position the UK as a major player in achieving a beyond 5G connected future.”