New chip architecture could accelerate the 6G mobile era
Researchers have built a chip prototype that integrates photonic components into a conventional electronic-based circuit board. They say it could pave the way for high frequency 6G and 7G networks.
According to a report in Nature Communications, researchers in Sydney have developed a new kind of networking semiconductor chip by attaching electronic and photonics components to a silicon wafer in the form of "chiplets". Historically, this has been extremely difficult to do.
If the tech proves robust it could have significant impact on mobile carriers. Next-gen mobile infrastructure will need to run over higher frequencies, which allow for faster speeds due to the greater energy capacity of the shorter wavelengths. But higher frequencies are more prone to interference and obstruction. Also, shorter wavelengths struggle to penetrate thick surfaces so there's a coverage issue too.
So the new networks will require communications chips with a significantly higher RF bandwidth, and the advanced filtering to eliminate the interference at these higher frequencies.
“Microwave photonic filters play a crucial role in modern communication and radar applications, offering the flexibility to precisely filter different frequencies, reducing electromagnetic interference and enhancing signal quality," said research team leader Ben Eggleton, pro-vice-chancellor (research) at the University of Sydney.
Currently, 5G runs over networks on bands ranging from 2 to 4 GHz at speeds of around 138 megabits per second. 6G is expected to be based on 7 to 15 GHz – though it could go to 1,000 GHz – and could reach a theoretical maximum of 1,000 gigabits per second.