Proceedings of the IEEE - Popular - Hanzo

Proceedings of the IEEE - Popular - Hanzo

Wireless Myths, Realities, and Futures: From 3G/4G to Optical and Quantum Wireless

Published in May 2012



Lajos Hanzo, Harald Haas, Sándor Imre, Dominic O'Brien, Markus Rupp, and Laszlo Gyongyosi


1) The Myth: Sixty years of research following Shannon's pioneering paper has led to telecommunications solutions operating arbitrarily close to the channel capacity-“flawless telepresence” with zero error is available to anyone, anywhere, anytime across the globe.

2)The Reality: Once we leave home or the office, even top of the range iPhones and tablet computers fail to maintain "flawless telepresence" quality. They also fail to approach the theoretical performance predictions. The 1000-fold throughput increase of the best third- generation (3G) phones over second-generation (2G) GSM phones and the 1000-fold increased teletraffic predictions of the next decade require substantial further bandwidth expansion toward ever increasing carrier frequencies, expanding beyond the radio frequency (RF) band to optical frequencies, where substantial bandwidths are available.

3) The Future: However, optical and quantum-domain wireless communications is less developed than RF wireless. It is also widely recognized that the path loss of RF wireless systems monotonically increases with the carrier frequency and this additional challenge has to be tackled by appropriate countermeasures in future research. Hence, we set out to seek promising techniques of tackling the aforementioned challenges and for resolving the conflicting design constraints imposed on the flawless telepresence systems of the future. To dispel the myth, we evaluate both the operational 3G as well as the emerging fourth-generation (4G) wireless systems and demonstrate that there is a substantial difference between their theoretical and their practically attainable performance. The reality is that the teletraffic predictions indicate further thirst for bandwidth, which cannot be readily satisfied within the most popular 1-2-GHz carrier-frequency range, where the best propagation conditions prevail. We briefly consider the 10-300-GHz unlicensed band as a potential source of further spectrum, followed by a review of advances way beyond the upper edge of the RF range at 300 GHz, namely to the realms of optical wireless (OW) communications. As the carrier frequency is increased, the path loss is also increased, which results in ever smaller cells. Furthermore, the high-frequency RF waves predominantly obey line-of-sight (LOS) propagation-like visible light. The future requires advances in both infrared and visible-light communications for circumventing the LOS nature of light. We hypothesize that light-emitting diode (LED) arrays acting as "massive" multiple-input-multiple-output (MIMO) components as well as transmitter/receiver cooperation might be conceived. The heterogeneous networks of the near future will rely on seamless, near-instantaneous handovers among OW hotspots, RF hotspots, and oversailing larger cells. These "massive" MIMOs might impose a high complexity, hence their reduced-complexity non-coherently detected counterparts might be favored. Finally, we conclude by touching upon the promising research area of quantum-domain communications, which might be expected to circumvent the aforementioned complexity problem of massive MIMOs with the aid of efficient quantum-domain search techniques-a truly exciting research era.