Testing and measurement outfit Keysight has teamed up with Nokia Bell Labs to wrestle with the problems posed by using very high frequencies for mobile.

Amid the struggle to create new mobile technology paradigms beyond mobile broadband, one persistent avenue of enquiry involves creating greater bandwidth by tapping chunks of spectrum previously considered impractical for mobile. 5G has seen the embrace of ‘mid-band’ (3.5-6 GHz) and even mmWave (somewhere between 26-300 GHz, depending on who you speak to) and one of the few bright ideas for 6G seems to be to dig up even more.

At a recent 6G conference, the 7-15 GHz range in between the those two was earmarked for 6G but Keysight and Bell Labs are currently focusing their attention on what they call D-band and E-band. The way in which bits of radio spectrum are named is a bit of a mess, but if this source is accurate they reside somewhere between 60-170 GHz – i.e. mmWave. To complicate things even further, they insist on referring to them as ‘subterahertz’.

The announcement starts by reflecting that such spectrum hasn’t previously been used because it has rubbish propagation characteristics – i.e. range and penetration. So the two sets of boffins have pulled together an Aladdin’s Cave of arcane kit, such as amplifiers, mixers, and frequency converters, in an attempt to improve said propagation.

“With 6G, we are on the cusp of realizing an unprecedented new era of high-speed, high-reliability, and flexible mobile connectivity that promises to transform human communications,” said Giampaolo Tardioli, VP for Keysight’s 6G and Next Generation program.

“This shift will be driven by the use of the subterahertz spectrum, which will give us the speeds needed to enable 6G use cases such as augmented reality and autonomous transportation. By working closely with global industry partners like Nokia Bell Labs today, Keysight is helping to create the 6G technologies needed for tomorrow’s mobile networks.”

AR and autonomous vehicles have long been touted as technologies enabled by 5G so it looks like we’re set to recycle them and others and rebrand them as 6G. While the chances are we will always find uses for extra bandwidth, there have been few compelling ones with 5G, so it’s hard to get excited about subterhertz at this stage. Having said that, any technological breakthroughs that make higher frequencies better suited to mobile have to be viewed as a step in the right direction.

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