Beyond 5G: Terranova project to develop prototype of 300GHz multichannel wireless system

Created October 16, 2017
Applications and Research

Pictured, left: Low cost, small form-factor E/O baseband interfaces and RF frontends are one of the most critical challenges of THz wireless links for Beyond 5G networks. The fusion with fibre optic infrastructure is the most promising path to a commercial solution offering up to a 100x higher data rates than 5G will do.

Networked machines exchange huge amounts of data in real time and the demand for high data rates in the financial sector and in data centres continues to increase by the day. Meanwhile, rural areas still lack fast data transmission rates and threaten to fall behind.

The upcoming mobile radio standard 5G promises an enormous increase in performance in wireless communication. According to the US Federal Network Agency’s reports, existing frequency bands are not going to suffice as the demand for stable wireless communication will continue to increase in the years ahead.

Project Terranova
Together with Fraunhofer HHI and European partners from industry and research Fraunhofer IAF is starting the project Terranova. Its primary goal is it to embed wireless links with carrier frequencies in the THz range into fibre optic links and thus enable very high data rates on the entire transmission path. Also, the development of new frequency bands is part of the project. Terranova is funded by the European Commission within Horizon 2020.

Wireless data transmission with up to 400 Gbit/s for network expansion
By combining established fibre optics with the microwave technology, scientists aspire to enable a network connection in the THz frequency range stable enough to transport data wirelessly at a rate of up to 400 gigabits per second.

To date, such transmission rates are only possible using pure glass fibre connections. However, the laying and routing of the fibre can entail high costs and effort, which is one of the reasons why rural areas divert more and more from technology’s current state of the art.

“We are working on a transfer from optical to wireless data transmission, one could say from ‘radio over fibre’ to ‘fibre over radio’,” explained project manager Thomas Merkle from Fraunhofer IAF. IAF researchers are developing and testing the hardware implementations of the future-oriented network structure in close collaboration with Fraunhofer HHI.

Bridging water
Though limited in scope at 300 GHz, the great advantage of wireless links is their ability to easily bridge water, as well as mountainous or inaccessible terrain. Today, mobile radio base stations are already supplied with data via radio, but with limited data rates.

In contrast to the complex laying of fibre optic cables, data transmission via radio can be realised quickly, easily and wirelessly over a distance of up to one kilometer using the point-to-point wireless link technology.

The advantage of the wireless THz radio communication lies within the big variety of possible applications: It can be of interest both for »Smart Factories« with connected machines and devices, as well as for the connection of base stations supporting the expansion of mobile radio and wifi networks.

The integration of THz radio communication represents a real alternative to the classical glass fibre networks for the long-term expansion of high-speed internet in rural areas as well as for wireless connections in data centres.

With the combination of wireless link and fibre optics, the Terranova project is taking a step towards future data networks beyond the 5G standard.

The multidisciplinary project team of TERRANOVA investigates new basic system architectures for embedding broadband THz wireless links into fibre optic links for beyond 5G networks.

The main focus is on utilizing the broadband frequency window between 270 and 330 GHz within the so-called THz band (0.1 – 10 THz). Key innovations are expected as an outcome in designing electro-optical (E/O) baseband interfaces, integrating THz frontends, and end-to-end (E2E) correction schemes for hybrid fibre optic – THz wireless links.

Image © Photo Fraunhofer IAF

Matthew Peach

This article was written
by Matthew Peach

Matthew Peach is a freelance technology journalist specialising in photonics and communications. He has previously worked for several business-to-business publishers, editing a range of high-tech magazines and websites.