Researchers trying to unleash the terahertz end of the spectrum to boost wireless communications bandwidth isn’t exactly anything new. But a group of researchers at Brown have made a major breakthrough: they made it work in non-line-of-sight pathways.
“Many researchers in the field have believed that links that rely on indirect, or non-line-of-sight pathways, are impossible,” Daniel Mittleman, who led the Brown team, said. “Our work shows that this isn’t necessarily the case.”
At the terahertz end of the spectrum waves have a much shorter frequency, which in turn generates increased capacity. This means that wireless communication networks bogged down under the weight of the Internet of Things and ravenous consumer hunger for video might have an entirely new spectrum frontier to mine, one the FCC hasn’t yet regulated.
— Dr. Daniel Mittleman (@OpticsMan) February 6, 2018
But all the upside does come with some potential risk. There is some concern that the 100-times higher frequency at this end of the spectrum could produce unsafe levels of radiation for humans. But Mittleman said he’s not worried.
“There is no more reason to believe that there are any safety concerns with terahertz radiation than there are with the microwave radiation from your cell phone,” he told Alphr. “In fact, one can argue that terahertz should be safer than microwaves at comparable exposure levels, because the penetration depth into living tissue is smaller at higher frequencies.”
Health risk, along with a range of other considerations would need to be settled by the FCC and others, but the viability of terahertz networks is an encouraging development, particularly for carriers looking toward a future even beyond 5G.
“…You’re going to see this ‘Internet of things’ start demanding network performance and making the networks much more aware of what is on top of them,” Ericsson CEO Hans Vesterberg recently told the Mercury News.
Mittleman says he hopes to see terahetz technology developed and ready to deploy in the next 10-15 years. Maybe that’s wishful thinking, but as consumers demand ever-increasing amounts of data, maybe 10 years isn’t really so far off.
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