AT&T and Samsung recently rejoined NYU Wireless, a major university research collaboration focused on 5G and other wireless innovations expected over the next 15 years.
There are currently 14 companies affiliated with NYU Wireless, including Huawei, Qualcomm, Sprint, Ericsson, and Nokia. The academic research center began its work in 2012, but some affiliate companies left more than a year ago. NYU Wireless is now on a mission to have them rejoin.
“The pioneering work at NYU really advanced 5G standards by several years and it was fair for industry to ask us what are we doing next,” NYU Wireless founding director Ted Rappaport explained in an interview with SDxCentral. “It has taken a year or two to reassess, and now we have new energy and vision and hires and will be leading the way to 6G. We’re back in the saddle. You are going to see more announcements. It’s very exciting.”
Rappaport, who is also a professor of electrical and computer engineering at NYU Tandon School Engineering, said NYU Wireless has 20 engineering faculty and up to 80 graduate student researchers working on a range of wireless areas. These include medicine, networking, the protocol stack, and applications designed to serve “the future of ubiquitous wireless.”
The 14 affiliates each chipped in $100,000 to NYU Wireless and share in the basic research developed there, Rappaport said. “We offer insights, research results, and phenomenal students in the industrial affiliates program, but no deliverables and no patents. It’s a trust relationship and our job is to deliver pre-competitive research. The affiliates share in it like an R&D arm,” he said.
Beyond the direct value to each company, the broader wireless community benefits from the research, while graduate student researchers develop connections that could lead to later employment at the affiliates, Rappaport said.
“These companies really are thought leaders and technology leaders, not just of 5G, but the entire future of wireless,” he said. Rappaport added that he’s hopeful Verizon Wireless will also rejoin NYU Wireless.
While 5G-related use cases remain in flux, Rappaport said the technology is already providing download speeds of up to 10 Gb/s and will reach up to 20 Gb/s over the next two years. Latency is also down to 1 to 2 milliseconds, which will be vital for autonomous vehicles.
5G Small Cells
Rappaport has served on the Federal Communications Commission’s Technological Advisory Council. He is also a proponent of an FCC rule approved last year requiring cities and counties to adhere to timelines and other guidelines allowing carriers to install small cell antennas on poles and buildings to provision millimeter wave (mmWave) 5G networks.
Cities and counties are too often applying a hidden tax on carriers, sometimes not allowing rights of way for small cells, he argued. “We need to enable small cells to build out to provide 5G capacity and coverage,” Rappaport said. “The FCC is taking an important leadership role that makes it a requirement to play fair.”
More than 20 cities and counties have challenged the rule in federal courts, some arguing there could be adverse health effects from radiation from small cells attached to streetlight poles and buildings in urban settings. Wireless industry trade association CTIA has estimated that as many 800,000 small cells will be needed nationwide to provide adequate mmWave coverage, each with the range of about a city block.
People who worry about adverse health effects from small cells should be more worried about flying above 10,000 feet or getting too many medical x-rays, Rappaport said. Small cells come with directional antennas to make sure the energy beam isn’t spread and wasted, he explained, adding that they are also smaller and less obtrusive than traditional antennas.
Rappaport predicted the FCC’s ruling will ultimately be decided in the courts, perhaps even the U.S. Supreme Court.
“My hope is the FCC prevails and here’s why: wireless is one of the most important productivity enhancers,” he said. “Why not allow 5G millimeter wave here in the U.S. while Japan, Korea, and China have made telecom a priority? We need to gain access for small cells to let our citizens have access to information so we can compete with the most advanced and powerful countries.”