LG Push TeraHertz Based 6G Mobile Data Signal to 320 Meters

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A new experimental test of early 6G mobile broadband technology, which was conducted by LG Electronics (LG) at the Fraunhofer Heinrich Hertz Institute (HHI) in Germany, has demonstrated a wireless signal working over the TeraHertz (THz) band that could reach a distance of 320 meters (significant, given the spectrum).

At present existing 5G networks are designed to harness radio spectrum bands from the low 450MHz and all the way up to the millimeter wave (mmW) bands of 52GHz. In theory, 5G can deliver peak (shared) speeds of up to 20Gbps (10Gbps upload) and latency times as low as 1-4ms. But real-world performance is often much slower due to various reasons, such as signal degradation over distance, the differing distributions of spectrum frequency between operators and the lack of standalone 5G networks (many 5G networks still use some 4G infrastructure).

NOTE: Terahertz (THz) radiation is more widely defined as the region of the electromagnetic spectrum (EM) in the range of 100GHz (3 mm) to 10THz (30 μm) – between the millimeter and infrared frequencies.

The next generation of 6G technology, which is still in the early research and development (R&D) phase, intends to go further by harnessing spectrum in the higher frequency THz bands. One often stated goal of this future technology is to be able to achieve data rates of up to 1Tbps (Terabits per second or 1000 Gigabits per second), but hitting that in the real world may be even harder than getting to 20Gbps with 5G.

Put simply, signals from lower frequency mobile bands like 450MHz to 1800MHz (1.8GHz) travel further and penetrate better into buildings, but there’s less spectrum frequency space for data (ie slower speeds, which can only be partially mitigated by aggregating multiple bands). By comparison, higher frequency bands like 3-4GHz are weaker and don’t travel as far or penetrate well, but they do have lots of extra spectrum for faster speeds.

Meanwhile, higher frequency bands work best in urban areas, where it’s more economical to build a dense network of sites / masts, while lower frequencies make more sense in rural environments where coverage is much harder to achieve at a cost-effective level, albeit to the detriment of data performance.

Suffice it to say, the problem of coverage gets much harder once you push into the THz bands, where related signals can potentially carry masses of data but are extremely weak and very easily disrupted. But LG’s latest test successfully showed a way forward by pushing the wireless transmission and reception of 6G TeraHertz (THz) data – at a frequency range of 155 to 175 GHz – over a distance of 320 meters outdoors.

The test is said to represent a “significant step towards commercializing 6G THz in both indoor and outdoor urban areas“, not least because the reference cell coverage of base stations for urban macro cells is a distance of approximately 250 meters outdoors. LG conducted a similar test last year, but that only achieved a distance of 100m and shows just how quickly things can change.

In order to achieve this, the team co-developed a multi-channel power amplifier capable of increasing transmission strength, and a receiver low-noise amplifier that improves incoming signal quality. The amplifier has an output of more than 20dBm, an increase of over 5dBm from the previous trial.

Dr. Kim Byoung-hoon, CTO and Executive VP of LG, said:

“With the success of our latest demonstration, we are one step closer to realizing 6G speeds of 1 terabit (TB) per second in both indoor and outdoor urban areas.

LG will continue to cooperate with research institutes and industry innovators to further solidify its leadership in 6G technology. We expect 6G to be a major driver of future business and new user experiences, and there is no place we’d rather be than at the forefront of its development.”

The catch in all this is that we don’t know what kind of data rate was achieved at this distance, although at 320m such a signal would surely be at its limits and was – we presume – probably unable to deliver much more than a few Kilobits per second at such a range. We do not know where the performance sweet spot for this technology exists in respect to coverage, but speeds are likely to fall away very rapidly with every passing meter.

At present many mobile operators, both in the UK and a number of other countries, have yet to properly harness even 5G’s higher frequency bands (eg 20-30GHz) and there are good reasons for that. In order to harness those, operators have to build an extremely dense network, which in cost terms only really makes sense in busy urban areas (eg major shopping malls) or for fixed wireless links, which limits demand for it. Likewise, people tend to object to the deployment of new masts.

In addition, regulators like Ofcom have been slow to auction off the relevant spectrum for such services, although this partly reflects the lack of demand or urgency for it from mobile operators. All of this creates a bit of a problem for 6G, which seems to be pushing into ever higher frequencies, albeit before many 5G operators have managed to make viable services out of the sub-THz bands.

Put another way, 6G will bring improvements but, much like 5G before it, the gap between marketing hype vs real-world experience only seems likely to grow. The first early draft of a 6G standard should arrive soon, although it is expected to be 2029/30 before we see the first commercial deployments.

LG plans to announce the full results of its latest 6G communications test and present an overview of the technology’s development so far at the upcoming 6G Grand Summit, set to take place at the LG Science Park in Seoul (South Korea) on September 23.


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