It’s likely that 5G, the term used to describe the next-generation of mobile networks, will be a complicated mish-mash of technologies. Some of the 5G vision includes existing technologies like LTE and LTE-Advanced Pro, self-organizing networks (SON), software-defined networking (SDN) and network functions virtualization (NFV). But 5G will also likely include lesser-known technologies like massive multiple-in and multiple-out (MIMO) antenna arrays, millimeter (mmWave) high frequency spectrum, and distributed cloud architectures.
Because 5G promises to be such a huge technological leap forward for wireless networks, many academic institutions are working hard to make contributions to the 5G vision by conducting research and creating test beds.
Here’s a look at some of the top academic institutions around the globe that are making headway in 5G research.
1. University of Surrey
The University of Surrey is the hotbed of 5G research in the U.K. The university’s 5G Innovation Centre opened in September 2015 and is home to more than 170 researchers. It has also attracted more than $90 million in investment funds.
The 5G Centre says it has already developed a technology that will enable speeds of 1 Tb/s, which is more than 1,000 times faster than today’s LTE networks. It also has filed more than 15 patents.
Some of the projects it’s working on include a video transmission protocol on 5G that will deliver 4K video and a new radio technology called Sparse Coding Multiple Access (SCMA) that will be able to increase capacity for the Internet of Things (IoT).
The Centre is headed by Professor Rahim Tafazolli, and its founding members include high-profile telecom players such as Vodafone, Huawei, Telefonica, and EE.
The 5G Centre plans to launch a 5G network at its Guildford Campus by 2018, which it says will help establish the U.K. as a leader in 5G.
2. UT Austin
The University of Texas at Austin shot to the forefront of 5G research when several faculty members and some Stanford University faculty headed by Professor Gustavo de Veciana were awarded a $978,000 National Science Foundation grant in 2013.
The group was tasked with delving into areas like multiple access points and overlapping wireless footprints to try to figure out how to handle the growing demand for wireless data.
But wireless research isn’t a new area to UT Austin. It is also home to the Wireless Networking and Communications Group, an interdisciplinary center for research and education with an emphasis on industrial relevance.
Founded in 2002, the group includes faculty members from the departments of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Aerospace Engineering, Mathematics, and Computer Sciences. The group is looking at mmWave and the role it will play in 5G communications. WNCG is also exploring areas like hybrid beamforming transmission as well as propagation channel estimation.
3. New York University
NYU Wireless is based at New York University’s Brooklyn engineering school and describes itself as an industrial partnership program that brings together students and industry for recruitment and research. Industry partners involved with NYU Wireless include AT&T, CableLabs, Intel, Ericsson, Huawei, Nokia, Qualcomm, and Level 3.
NYU Wireless’ projects include mmWave channel modeling, 5G channel model simulation, and the distributed core architecture.
The institution also is behind the Brooklyn Wireless Summit, an event it hosts every spring with Nokia. The summit, which attracts top 5G dignitaries from industry and academia, focuses on overall 5G system design, regulation, and use cases.
Ted Rappaport, founder of NYU Wireless, is a well-known name in wireless academia. Earlier in his career, he founded two other academic wireless research centers: The Wireless Networking and Communications Group (WNCG) at UT Austin, and the Mobile and Portable Radio Research Group (MPRG), now known as Wireless @ Virginia Tech.
4. UC Berkeley Wireless Research Center
The Berkeley Wireless Research Center is home to research in radio frequency (RF) and mmWave technologies as well as advanced spectrum use and other integrated wireless systems and applications.
Established in 1999, the Berkeley center pre-dates 5G. However, because of its deep partnerships with many industry leaders, it remains on the forefront of 5G research. The facility is focused on looking at ways to optimize wireless technology for the lowest possible power consumption and is using cutting-edge research to evaluate different types of system-on-a-chip (SoC) innovations.
Another area also critical to 5G is the Swarm Lab, which is also part of the University of California at Berkeley. Swarm intelligence is based upon the theory that combined intelligence makes for better processes and systems.
The Swarm Lab’s research looks at a variety of things, including how Swarm can influence wireless networking. The Swarm Lab also looks at new concepts such as cyber-physical and cyber-biological systems, immersive computing, and augmented reality.
5. Tokyo Institute of Technology
The Tokyo Institute of Technology is working with Japanese operator NTT DoCoMo on 5G networking with a goal of figuring out how to achieve network speeds of 10 Gb/s or higher.
In a joint outdoor experiment conducted recently, the two succeeded in achieving uplink speeds of approximately 10 Gb/s using 400 MHz bandwidth in the 11 GHz spectrum.
The test used MIMO, multiplexing data streams by using eight transmit antennas and 16 receive antennas on the same frequency.
NTT DoCoMo has conducted other 5G tests with vendors like Nokia and Samsung, which have achieved data transmission speeds in excess of 2 Gb/s. Those tests take advantage of technologies like mmWave, beam-forming and beam-tracking.