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What are Communication Extenders?

 

Millimeter-wave (mm-wave) technology has emerged as a critical enabler in the evolution of wireless communication systems, particularly in the context of 5G and the forthcoming 6G networks. One of the key components driving the enhanced performance of RF signal analysis systems is the mm-wave Communication Extender (Up/Down converter). mm-Waves refer to radio waves with frequencies ranging from 30 to 300 GHz, falling within the high-frequency spectrum. Leveraging these higher frequencies provides several advantages, including increased data rates, lower latency, and the ability to support a massive number of simultaneous connections. However, the utilisation of mm-wave frequencies also poses unique challenges, such as increased atmospheric absorption and limited propagation distances.

 

Architecture of Communication Extenders

The mm-wave communication extenders serve as a crucial bridge between lower frequency signals and the higher frequency mm-wave spectrum. Communication extender architecture comprises of two main components: the up-converter, which translates lower frequency signals to the desired mm-wave frequency, and the down-converter, responsible for converting mm-wave signals back to lower frequencies for analysis and processing. These up/down converters play a pivotal role in facilitating seamless communication between the radio frequency (RF) and mm-wave domains.

The architecture of mm-wave up/down converters encapsulates a sophisticated blend of amplification, mixing, filtering, and conversion technologies, as shown in Figure 1 below.

1 Figure 1: Farran’s FEC-XX communication extender architecture (simplified).

 

As the demand for higher data rates, lower latency, and increased spectral efficiency continues to drive the evolution of wireless communication, the refinement and innovation in the architecture of communication extenders will remain crucial for the success of future communication systems. The intricate dance of up-conversion and down-conversion within these frequency extenders exemplifies the pinnacle of engineering prowess, enabling the seamless integration of mm-wave frequencies into the fabric of modern wireless communication, particularly fortifying the foundations of 5G networks and laying the groundwork for the much-anticipated advancements in 6G communication systems.

 

Technology Behind mm-Wave Communication Extenders

The design of mm-wave communication extenders involves state-of-the-art technologies to ensure maximum performance and interoperability. Advanced semiconductor technologies, such as gallium nitride (GaN) are often employed due to their superior high-frequency characteristics. Additionally, innovative packaging techniques and advanced heat dissipation methods, are crucial to addressing the thermal challenges associated with mm-wave frequencies.

 

Applications of Communication Extenders in 5G Communication

In the realm of 5G networks, mm-wave communication extenders, featuring advanced up/down converters, are pivotal for achieving higher data rates and ultra-low latency. Deployed within mm-wave bands such as 24 GHz, 28 GHz, and 39 GHz, these extenders efficiently translate signals between RF and mm-wave frequencies, enhancing capacity and spectral efficiency for diverse 5G use cases.

Beyond traditional mm-wave up/down conversion, communication extenders play key roles in:

  • 5G network emulation/simulation,
  • Beamforming algorithm development
  • Antenna array verification
  • Software-Defined Radio (SDR) applications

 

Communication extenders facilitate realistic testing environments, optimise beamforming techniques, and serve as crucial interfaces in SDR experiments, contributing to the evolution of wireless communication. Figure 2 shows a typical setup for 5G network simulation with Farran’s FEC-XX communication extenders and SDR.

 

2

Figure 2: SDR based 5G network emulation with Farran FEC -XX communication extenders

 

Significance in 6G Communication Test-Beds

Looking ahead to 6G, mm-wave communication extenders maintain their forefront position. As higher frequency bands, including terahertz (THz) frequencies, pose challenges and opportunities, communication extenders become essential in developing and testing the next generation of communication systems, acting as crucial components in 6G test-beds. Their adaptability across various 5G scenarios underscores their significance in shaping the future of wireless communication technologies.

 

Conclusion

In conclusion, the evolution of mm-wave technology, coupled with the advancements in up/down converter design, has significantly contributed to the success of 5G networks. Communication extenders not only facilitate the deployment of mm-wave frequencies but also play a vital role in reducing time to market and costs for mobile operators and system integrators. As we set our sights on 6G, the continued development and refinement of mm-wave communication extenders will be instrumental in shaping the future of wireless communication systems.

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