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EU ‘Beyond 5G’ TERAPOD project with Dr Cyril Renaud

THz communications wireless links, a disruptive technology for data centres.
EU ‘Beyond 5G’ TERAPOD project with Dr Cyril Renaud

Dr Cyril Renaud, Reader in the Photonics Group is 5th from left

TECHNOLOGY experts from academia and industry across Europe are pooling their knowledge and expertise in a ground-breaking, industry-focused and EU-funded project to plot, plan and prepare for the future of wireless technology way beyond 5G.

Waterford Institute of Technology’s world-renowned Telecommunications, Software and Systems Group (TSSG) is the venue today for the first face to face meeting of the Europe-wide team charged with delivering the mammoth 3 year, €3 million plus TERAPOD progamme and ensuring that Europe remains to the fore in such global technological advances.

TERAPOD sees academics and industry leaders from Ireland, the UK, Spain, Portugal and Germany not just investigate but also test and demonstrate the feasibility of an ultra-high bandwidth wireless access networks operating in the Terahertz (THz) band. The band is seen as the new frontier for wireless communication across the globe and the key to satisfying the increasing demand for higher speed wireless communication.

TERAPOD will de-risk THz device and system development. It will disrupt how current Data Centres operate by introducing THz communication wireless links. Data Centres provide the team with an “early adopter” scenario where they will prove the technology and test its impact there.

The tech will move to other use cases also - such as ultrahigh quality video broadcasting, wireless virtual reality and bulk data transfer at Terabits per second. This will dramatically impact on the operational efficiency and geometric design of Data Centres all over the world well into the future, the project team says.

TERAPOD will also progress THz communication as a science and will lead to an exponential growth in scientific output and disclosure of THz communication research over the next 10 years. TERAPOD will also help the THz industry right across the globe to grow dramatically over the next 10 years. 

TSSG are project co-ordinators and leading the EU-backed initiative and partnering with Dell EMC means they can test their findings in both the TSSG’s own and Dell EMC’s extensive data centre networks, TSSG’s Dr. Alan Davy said. Their partners include the University of Glasgow and UCL, the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) and Bay Phonics in the UK. German partners include TU Braunschweig, Vivid Components and ACST. The sole Spanish partner is VLC Photonics and the multinational team also includes Inesc Tec from Portugal.

UCL’s  Dr Cyril Renaud said:  “UCL we have worked in millimetre wave and THz communication technologies for more than 10 years, and have participated in the development of the technology as one of the arguably leading contender for wireless high data rate links.  However, so far, no real test of THz system within an application setting have been done to fully assess performances from devices to full network design. This is where I believe TERAPOD is hugely exciting and at the forefront of the research work in the field internationally as it brings experts from each layers of a communication systems and will aim at improving every element of that network from devices to architecture.”

“The European Commission funded 6 projects to look beyond 5G and this flagship initiative is unrivalled. We will focus on concept deployment demonstration within a data centre. The project will bring THz communication a leap closer to industry uptake through leveraging recent advances in THz components, coupled with higher layer communication protocol specification. The saturation of wireless spectrum access is leading to innovations in areas such as spectrum resource usage. It is widely thought however that the low hanging fruits of innovation for wireless communication are all but exploited with only marginal gains possible. For a real step change towards the coveted 1Tbps wireless transmission, new areas of the spectrum must be used. That is what our TERAPOD project is all about,” Dr. Davy explained.

Donagh Buckley, Senior Director, Dell EMC Research Europe, said: “Dell EMC is very excited to be a part of TERAPOD and we look forward to achieving significant technology advances to accelerate our R&D efforts in the Data Centre through this collaboration with Dr. Alan Davy and the project team. Innovation is the life blood of Dell EMC and our external research investment enables us to explore emergent technologies and engage with leading researchers.”

A European Commission spokesperson said the EU and the European Commission support the TERAPOD ambition to exploit frequencies above 90 GHz as a potential solution to the saturation of wireless spectrum access in Europe. “We welcome its objectives of assessing the feasibility of ultrahigh bandwidth access networks and of exploring the elaboration of a technology roadmap for THz communication beyond 5G.”

The project will build a Terahertz based Ultra High Bandwidth Wireless Access Network (TERAPOD). A TERAPOD cell is a very small cell of coverage approximately 10 meters, making it comparable in coverage to a femtocell. However, it could potentially deliver several orders of magnitude higher throughput (x103). This will be demonstrated in a particular use case scenario of wireless network access in Data Centers.

Data centers are ideal first adopter candidates, the partners say, as they provide controllable environmental conditions, which can be favorable for THz wave propagation such as a low moisture atmosphere, limited mobility and limited dynamic channel activity. However simulation and modeling of other deployment settings will also be carried out such as homes, offices and factories.

 THz system component development for the purpose of imaging using techniques such as time domain spectroscopy (TDS) has come a long way over the last 10 - 15 years or so. However little has progressed beyond the development of devices to deliver a cost-effective THz communication system leveraging these components, he says. With the help of focused, industry-specific Horizon 2020, European Commission funding, this problem is now being addressed.

The technical objectives of TERAPOD are to evaluate and assess the feasibility of both lab-based and commercial THz components for use within a THz-based communication system. The partners will survey, select, measure and test the system. The EU-wide team will also simulate, demonstrate and evaluate THz communication feasibility of up to 100Gbps within a Data Centre setting as well as other relevant settings.

The European team will also spec and evaluate a THz based Ultra High Bandwidth Access Network and address potential barriers to adoption such as standardization and regulation. They will also be raising awareness and suggesting outreach of THz communication impacts such as workshops, tutorials, training, public engagement and more.

By the end of the 3 year project, the partners aim to practically demonstration and validated a cost-effective THz Communication system within a Data Centre setting and to have developed an early specification of a THz-based High Bandwidth Access Network Architecture and protocols.

Recent advances in THz communication focus in general around the realization of THz transceiver components (emitters and detectors) and THz sources. The EU funded iBROW project has recently demonstrated that Resonance Tunneling Diodes (RTDs) can be feasible transmitters at 300GHz. The project focuses on developing energy efficient THz transceiver technology with seamless interfacing to optical fiber networks using RTDs.

The German national-funded TERAPAN project wishes to demonstrate THz communication of data rates up to 10M in indoor environments using cost-efficient monolithically integrated transceivers. The project focuses on simulation of channel conditions to determine the feasibility of 100 Gbps throughout using high-gain antennas in conjunction with electrical beam forming.

The EPSRC-funded Coherent Terahertz Systems (COTS) programme aims to innovate in three main areas: ultra-broadband wireless communications systems; information processing and thirdly, coherent imaging and sensing.