Nokia Bell Labs demos 5G light fixtures and 90-GHz mmWave

Osram nokia bell labs 5G light
There are network radio modules unremarkably integrated into Osram’s Licross luminaires. Image credit: Osram

Nokia Bell Labs is showcasing several new 5G-related innovations at a Nokia-sponsored 5G event in New York, including making use of the 90-GHz mmWave band and integrating indoor 5G networks into ceiling light fixtures.

The latter is via a joint initiative between Nokia Bell Labs and Osram, who have been exploring how ceiling luminaires can be used to create a tightly integrated (and affordable) interior radio network with 5G capabilities

“Our office and industrial luminaires are already networked for remote control,” said Thorsten Mueller, head of innovation at Osram. “In this R&D project, we equipped them with special broadband radio modules, allowing mobile devices like cell phones and laptops to connect to the luminaire network and transmit data.”

Mueller said the new solution is easier to install than conventional Wi-Fi systems and enables new applications. Ceiling luminaires are installed close together in every building and can be connected to a future light-control and network-management system in office and industrial buildings. The system simply has to be connected to a building’s communication access line, such as a fiber-optic connection. The concentrated and evenly distributed pattern of installed light sources prevents dead zones from occurring in the building.

Affordable radio modules will increase the price only slightly compared to conventional office luminaires. They also perform better and will generate lower costs than Wi-Fi access points and repeaters. In addition these new luminaires can be used for other services like the collection of sensor data.

The solution addresses one of the major deployment challenges of both 4G and 5G – indoor coverage, which is problematic when using high frequency bands. Nokia Bell Labs and Osram reckon that separate interior room networks are ideal for producing smooth mobile connections.

Test installations using prototypes of the new radio luminaires have demonstrated data throughput levels of well over 100 Mbps using cheap 2.4-GHz Wi-Fi transmitters. More sophisticated radio modules in which various frequencies are combined and several channels are operated simultaneously currently already facilitate speeds just below the gigabit level. 5G promises to boost those speeds up to several gigabits.

The newly developed radio luminaires can be integrated into Osram’s recently announced IoT platform Lightelligence as supplemental sources of sensor data. Osram says Lightelligence can be used to bundle smart components, applications and programs, resulting in new apps and services that extend far beyond light. Its sensor-based logistics solutions, for example, can use a warehouse’s lighting infrastructure to record inventories, monitor temperature and humidity for perishable goods and optimize the way in which warehouses are used.

“Our light installations are getting smarter and smarter,” Osram’s  Mueller added. “Presence detectors in office buildings can already be used to manage meeting rooms more efficiently and plan targeted cleaning as and when required. In retail stores, customers can be better addressed with the help of localized digital services.”

The system is being demoed at this week’s fifth annual Brooklyn 5G Summit, co-sponsored by Nokia and NYU Wireless Research Center at the New York University Tandon School of Engineering.

Meanwhile, also at the summit, Nokia Bell Labs and NTT DoCoMo announced they will perform joint studies and trials on 5G technology using 90-GHz frequencies, which they say will deliver massive-capacity to address the increased demand in video data and applications.

The companies will apply a Nokia Bell Labs-developed compact mmWave phased-array antenna system scalable up to 256 elements using an integrated circuit (RFIC) solution in the 90-GHz band to enable multi-gigabit per second speeds. The test aims to demonstrate how using 5G NR enhancements at higher mmWave frequency bands can manage radio complexity and a larger number of antenna beams, while enabling greater bandwidth. It will also try to show how using a larger number of antenna elements at higher frequency bands can minimize path loss to enable coverage similar to that found using lower mmWave bands.

A joint demo will also show how dynamic offloading relocation in a 5G core will enable the low-latency networks required to support time critical mobile broadband applications for future automation and augmented reality.

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