With 5G being the current hot topic that has brought both excitement and cautious optimism in the circles of technology, let us see what the idea behind this phenomenon is, and where else does it find application…
You must all be knowing, or at least have heard about the technology that has caught global attention, for quite some time too, and has totally serenaded the telecom giants in the U.S. and other major operators in various countries worldwide. The buzz around this word has got everyone in the technology sector excited beyond limits, to the extent that smartphone manufacturers have already jumped on to this bandwagon, through launch of related products. I am, of course, talking about 5G (no prizes for guessing!). With anticipation through the roof, it’s no wonder that telecom operators like AT&T and Verizon are trying to outmuscle each other in terms of the extent of their 5G offerings.
The Brains Behind 5G
However, one aspect that many of us common folks do not understand is what is the working behind 5G? The answer is simple: millimeter wave technology, commonly known in the industry circles as ‘mmWave’. Millimeter waves are the radio frequency waves with frequencies ranging from 30 GHz to 300 GHz, also known as Extremely High-Frequency (EHF) range. The wavelength of these radio waves ranges from 1 mm to 10 mm. Their high-frequency operating range and propagation characteristics or behavior, while traveling through the atmosphere, are the prime factors responsible for their extensive applications.
The millimeter wave technology is an application-oriented technology, mostly used across the telecommunication applications for transmitting data over distances. It is also used widely across imaging & scanning systems and radar & satellite communication systems. The millimeter band is used extensively in remote sensing and radio astronomy, with satellite-based remote sensing helping to determine upper atmosphere temperature. Other prominent applications of the millimeter wave technology include transmitting a large quantity of data, cellular communication, and radar. The mmWave radar finds application in tanks and aircraft as a short-range fire control radar, as well as in close-in weapon systems.
The military & defense, medical, security, and semiconductor industries are the major application areas of the millimeter wave technology. Security screening makes use of millimeter wave scanners, and the TSA (Transport Security Administration) has deployed them at many major airports in the United States. The technology also finds application in speed-detecting radar guns by the police. The mmWave technology has also found its way in healthcare sector, where it is mainly used in medical imaging networks. Millimeter wave emitting devices find use in millimeter wave therapy, which is a form of medical treatment.
The telecommunication equipment and the telecom application segments are dominating the current millimeter wave technology market, as the introduction of 5G has played a huge role in increasing its attractiveness for telecom market players. Fiber-optic cables are one of the prominent mediums being used across the telecommunication sector to transmit data over distances. The ability of fiber-optic cables to allow increased transmission of data, over long distances, has made it a medium of choice.
A Booming Industry!
Millimeter waves, as compared to fiber-optic cables, are capable of transmitting data at high speeds with low losses. Moreover, the mmWave technology is relatively cheaper than the fiber-optics technology and relatively simple to install. Providers are currently considering the implementation of outdoor “fiber-optic quality” wireless millimeter-wave products. There are issues with fiber-optic cables with regards to latency, when used for digital 3D/HD applications. Millimeter-wave frequency bands offer an alternative to coaxial and fiber optic cables to transfer 3D/HD signals.
Some of the major factors that have proved to be a recipe for success for the millimeter wave technology market include:
The presence of several competent manufacturers and developers of the technology in the U.S., the UK, Russia and Germany are responsible for marking these countries as prominent contributors to the millimeter wave industry, with extensive R&D ensuring that these countries dominate the global market.
The emerging countries of the Asia Pacific region, such as China and Japan, are expected to strengthen their grasp on the millimeter wave technology market, owing to the expanding telecommunication sector, as the penetration of consumer electronic products such as smart wearables, smartphones, smart watches are increasing considerably.
Upgradations in military & defense infrastructures and satellite & radar communication systems are the major contributing factors that are anticipated to positively influence the regional MMW technology market.
Securities across major public places such as airports and malls have significantly increase, owing to looming terrorism threats around the globe. This again is anticipated to boost the market for millimeter wave technology.
Increasing usage of mmWave in the telecom sector as well as small cell backhaul applications is expected to drive further millimeter wave technology market growth in coming years.
The propagation characteristics of the millimeter waves pose a challenge to the market, with the technology being vulnerable to environmental conditions like humidity, fog and rainfall. Besides, there are also major limitations with respect to their range, as they can only work well over relatively short distances and should have clear line of sight. T-Mobile, one of the giants in the U.S. Telecom industry, notably admitted in 2019 that the millimeter wave technology would never be able to scale beyond dense urban environments. This poses a major challenge to the reach of 5G in rural areas, which is a major knock against the market.
Some of the major competitors involved in the development of millimeter wave technology market include Aviat Networks, Inc., Siklu Communication Ltd., E-band Communications LLC, Sage Millimeter, Inc., and Bridgewave Communications, Inc. Notable developments in the market include:
In December 2019, Aviat announced improvements to its WTM 4000 All-Outdoor Radio Platform to enhance reliability capabilities and boost data throughput, in anticipation of 5G deployments.
In November 2019, Siklu announced that its mmWave core and access network equipment were deployed in the city of Jerusalem, making the city one of the largest global municipal networks. The wireless broadband infrastructure, known as Gigabit wireless access network, would provide high-speed internet to educational institute.
In-depth report on global millimeter wave (MMW) technology market by Grand View Research:
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