Communications in 2022: from 5G to the metaverse
This article is part of the Electronic Design Predictions 2022 publish
What you will learn:
- How far will 5G go in 2022?
- The promise of satellites to meet the relentless demands for faster data communication speeds.
- Spectral computer glasses and holographic cell phones.
With the constant evolution of communication technologies, it is always difficult to predict what to expect in the short term and later. Some new products and services can be imagined by regularly following trends, technological changes and rumors. But others are impossible to identify. Here is my vision of what you might see in 2022 and beyond.
A construction of the 5G network is a given. Market research firm Allied Market Research estimates that the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5G will reach 67% and total around 48 billion by 2027. Much of this is for new cell sites. , perhaps as many as 100,000 mini-sites or more, to deliver the promised coverage and benefits of 5G.
Some of that rollout money will go toward addressing various 5G issues and limitations. One of them is the very short range and lack of penetrating power of 5G in the millimeter bands. Indoor coverage is poor or non-existent at these higher frequencies. More cell sites and improved higher-gain antennas are part of the solution. Agile beamforming and MIMO phased arrays will bring improvements.
Another issue is the recent complaint that new cell sites using the new C-band (3.7 to 4.4 GHz) and located near airports could cause interference with commercial aircraft altimeters. These instruments are extremely critical during take-off and landing, especially in bad weather. The FCC and the FAA as well as the cellular operators are trying to find a solution. Using lower power, keeping cell sites more than two miles from runways, as well as updating dated radio altimeters, can be part of the solution.
It seems that the solution to the use of 5G in future Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) is solved. Apparently, C-V2X won out over DSRC for its implementation in these systems. Automakers have a variety of rollout plans.
C-V2X radios could find their way into some new vehicles by the end of 2022, but 2023 might be more realistic. Also, it will be years before enough C-V2X equipped vehicles are on the road to make it effective. The associated intelligent transportation system infrastructure will also take time to install. Eventually, we’ll see a great new way to reduce traffic accidents.
In the meantime, 6G is under development. Few details are available, but this involves higher operating frequencies as well as artificial intelligence (AI). 6G uses frequencies between 30 GHz and 3 THz, allowing for even faster data rates as well as near-zero latency. Indoor operation continues to be a challenge.
AI and machine learning (ML) will likely manage network and spectrum allocations. As with 5G, antenna technologies like phased arrays and MIMO will certainly be an important part of the solutions. However, 6G probably won’t arrive until 2030.
AI is not a new technology, and engineers and programmers have rediscovered it in the form of machine learning. When we talk about AI today, almost everyone assumes we are talking about ML. But the field of AI covers much more than that. Still, I expect ML applications to start dominating as designers discover its potential. New Year’s resolution: learn more about AI.
The demand for ever-faster data communications continues to grow, but the industry still lags behind in providing it. Many believe that satellites are the answer. Satellites have long been a solution to multiple communication needs. More than 5,000 satellites are currently in orbit around the Earth. These radio relay stations in the sky are used for communications as well as for surveillance, navigation and television distribution. Cellular service and extended high-speed Internet service will soon be available everywhere on Earth.
Elon Musk’s satellite company Starlink is building a massive Low Earth Orbit (LEO) network that will potentially bring high-speed internet service to rural areas currently unserved by regular cellphone providers. . LEO satellites typically orbit between 150 and 300 miles above Earth, making them more accessible to radio signals to and from terrestrial radios. The FCC has licensed more than 11,000 new satellites for this system. Several hundred satellites are already in place thanks to Musk’s SpaceX rocket launch capability.
Amazon’s Jeff Bezos is also building a LEO network called Kuiper. The company has received FCC clearance to launch up to 3,236 satellites. Bezos’ company Blue Origin will handle the rocket launches.
It’s hard to imagine 15,000 or more satellites orbiting overhead. Will they block out the sun and darken the sky, providing an unexpected partial solution to the problem of global warming? Both amateur and professional astronomers complain about satellites because they make it difficult to observe real stars and planets. RF interference between satellites is another problem, as are satellite collisions. Needless to say, many satellite issues still need to be resolved.
Another area of growth for the year is drones or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Considerable development has occurred in recent years making them useful in many applications. The drone market is expected to reach over $100 billion in the coming years.
Military drones of many shapes have already been fielded, with more to come. Commercial applications continue to slowly emerge, but drones are proving to be very handy tools in many fields, including agriculture, construction, transportation, firefighting, surveying, and police work. And who’s to say that a UAV won’t be a viable future autonomous vehicle?
out of the blue
At the time of this writing, rumors suggest that we will soon have holographic cell phones. A hologram is a photograph made by shining coherent light from a laser onto an object or scene and recording it on some form of photosensitive medium. When played using a laser and the recorded medium, the hologram will appear in space in its original 3D form. It’s certainly a breakthrough, but I wonder who needs it.
Another rumor involves Apple replacing the iPhone with something called Spectral Computing Glasses (SCG). These are similar to the glasses introduced by Google in 2013, but more advanced. The Google product never caught on and quickly disappeared.
The SCGs are vastly improved, as available speculation data implies that they will have the functionality of an iPhone. The glasses you will be looking through are not just a computer screen, but also work to produce augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) capabilities. The glasses can be operated by voice command, arm and hand movements and eye movements. All other iPhone functions are expected to be implemented. Will the SCG really kill the smartphone?
Can you imagine we’re all wearing those glasses instead of constantly staring at our iPhones? Most people are addicted to their phones, but putting on those SCGs will pretty much dominate your actions and your life more than your phone does now. Will everyone have to remove their glasses during meetings or at the table? Smartphones are already consuming our lives now, but can you imagine SCG’s near-total control over your life?
What else can we see?
Finally, there is the next Metaverse. While its definition is continually revised, the Metaverse is apparently an advanced version of the Internet. It will use augmented reality and virtual reality to make the Internet more interactive with games, meetings and personal communications. Don’t expect much this year, but it’s something to watch.
Hopefully, a continued shortage of semiconductors won’t materially affect too many of these expected developments.