PhD research spurs international race for 6G terahertz band communications

Fri 3 September 2021

PhD research spurs international race for 6G terahertz band communications
PhD research spurs international race for 6G terahertz band communications

Associate Professor Nan Yang and PhD candidate Akram Shafie have published promising research outcomes in the wireless communications paradigm that could bring revolutionary new applications from science fiction to reality.

Wireless communication has evolved in recent decades with each generation improving upon the last. The current fifth generation network, commonly known as 5G, is based on 5G new radio (NR), operating at the frequency bands of 3.5 GHz and 28 GHz.

Yang and Shafie’s research suggests that the path to 6G will employ the terahertz band (0.1-10 terahertz). Target speeds for terahertz communication would be more than 20 times faster than 5G wireless networks. Wireless transmission at this level could bring scenes out of Star Wars and Star Trek, such as holographic telepresence, into everyday human experience.

Holographic telepresence can be used in telemedicine, allowing medical professionals to advise and assist colleagues in real time from thousands of miles away. “It will also improve the effectiveness of remote management in humanitarian crisis situations, and remote education, of particular significance during public health crises such as COVID-19 pandemic,” Yang said.

In addition to ultra-fast data transmission, Yang anticipates that 6G will satisfy a wide variety of other quality-of-service requirements, for instance “massive connectivity in the order of 10 million connected devices per square kilometer,” he said. 

Yang has been working on different aspects of terahertz communication since 2018. The research project was initiated by Shafie, who began under Yang’s supervision as a PhD candidate in March of 2019.

“By the time I started my PhD, the 5G research efforts were complete and the commercialization of systems had just begun. So, I wanted to contribute to a technology that would be a cornerstone of 6G and beyond,” Shafie said of his decision to explore the theoretical performance evaluation of terahertz communication.

Yang said it was exciting when their paper was accepted by the prestigious IEEE Journal on Selected Areas in Communications (JSAC). “It implies the community’s recognition of our contribution, and this is the first work produced by Akram [to be published by JSAC],” Yang said. 

Shafie said the paper presents an “innovative mathematical approach for examining the reliability of indoor terahertz communication systems”. It has already triggered follow-up efforts at New York University and Syracuse University in the United States, at York University in Canada, at the University of Piraeus in Greece, and Zhejiang University in China. 

Beam me up, Scotty? Not just yet. The scientific community predicts 6G will arrive around 2030.

Many of the applications and services made possible by 6G are not in science fiction movies simply because they haven’t yet been envisioned. A 2018 report commissioned by Telstra predicted that 5G will add $50 billion to Australia’s gross domestic product, and the origin of this work in Australia could mean domestic companies will enjoy a larger share of the market. 

Yang said that terahertz communication is not the only catalyst that will bring 6G into reality. “Some of the other 6G enabling technologies are unmanned aerial vehicles-aided communication, intelligent reflecting surface, orthogonal time frequency space modulation, and machine learning-aided networking,” he said.

Yang has recently delivered several tutorials on terahertz communication at international conferences, such as the 2021 IEEE International Symposium on Personal, Indoor and Mobile Radio Communications (IEEE PIMRC 2021) and the 2021 IEEE 94th Vehicular Technology Conference (VTC2021-Fall). 

An upcoming article by Yang and Shafie explores how 6G-enabling technologies can be successfully integrated into terahertz communication systems to fully unleash the potentials offered by the terahertz band. 

“We are currently investigating novel terahertz band spectrum allocation techniques that may pave the way for the development of highly efficient end-to-end terahertz communication systems in the 6G and beyond era,” Shafie said.

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