In a few years, our mobile network will have to deal with a thousand times more the traffic it has to today. One possible solution is to place small base stations in our homes or cars. This is one of several proposals being examined at Chalmers University of Technology, in the work being performed for the next generation wireless system – 5G.
The need to densify the cellular network will increase dramatically in the coming years. The sharp increase is driven by growth in smartphone subscriptions, and at the same time we are consuming more mobile services as an increasing number of services are made available. A very large number of new devices are also expected to communicate in the mobile network, in areas such as infotainment, transport and new industrial applications.
“We see that traffic capacity in the long term needs to increase a thousandfold to meet this rapid development. Theoretically, we could provide the capacity by increasing the number of big base stations, but this option is not economically viable,” says Associate Professor Tommy Svensson at Chalmers University of Technology.
Chalmers is taking part in the 5G initiative Metis – the first international and large-scale research initiative on the 5th generation wireless systems. The Department of Signals and Systems is examining the possibility of densifying the cellular network by supplementing the infrastructure with simple, low power and small base stations. These can be positioned, for example, next to lampposts, facades and in indoor environments. Another proposal is to place small mobile base stations in vehicles, such as cars, trucks, buses and trains.
With these additions to the mobile network, data transfer from big base stations will become more efficient, and the distance to users will decrease – which will benefit high speed data traffic and result in increased battery life for mobile devices. When small base stations are located closer to users, radio signals can be used more efficiently and thereby be transmitted with less power, which means exposure to radiation from mobile communications can be reduced.
Placing base stations in vehicles can offer smart and flexible densification, which partially addresses the current problem of mobile access in crowded areas – where there are many people, there are generally also vehicles.
“Small mobile base stations can also contribute to secure communication between vehicles for traffic and road safety applications,” says Professor Erik Ström at Chalmers University of Technology.
In fact, the future wireless network will form the foundation for an intelligent society where people and equipment can be connected anywhere, anytime – with anything. A high degree of connectivity will be a key enabler for new innovative technologies and applications that can benefit from information sharing. Achieving this within an integrated wireless network is a complex challenge for 5G.
“The combination of large and small base stations, and possibly direct communication between devices, can be integrated in different ways. We need to find a well-functioning system design with high reliability, very fast response times, user-friendly solutions and with low cost and low power consumption,” says Tommy Svensson.
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