The CRC and the City of Ottawa are collaborating on the next generation of wireless: 5G. We have created a test site at Ottawa City Hall where we demonstrate significant 5G advances, and where collaborators can come to help us innovate.
CRC 5G Advances
To keep pace with 5G innovation, we need to use new, higher frequency spectrum known as millimetre waves (mm-waves) for smartphone service. Until recently, it was believed that mm-waves were not suitable for mobile broadband communications. They are easily blocked by obstacles and they do not travel as far as the frequencies used for mobile today. Recently, the CRC has overcome these technical hurdles.
Using specialized equipment, the CRC has demonstrated that mm-waves can be used for mobile. The CRC's research base station and custom-equipped backpack are among the most compact to achieve 5G mobile communications to date, allowing for trials both outdoors and indoors.
To extend coverage, the CRC and its collaborators, the National Research Council of Canada and GGI Solutions, have developed engineered surfaces. Printed patterns in the surfaces redirect wireless signals. These low-cost printed electronics can dramatically increase 5G wireless coverage.
CRC's 5G research
The federal government is the steward of spectrum in Canada. Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED) is the department that manages the use of spectrum. The Communications Research Centre, which is a part of ISED, provides the department with scientific evidence to ensure sustainable spectrum management.
The next generation of wireless, called 5G, will bring much more connectivity, requiring more spectrum in new frequency bands. There is a lot of spectrum at higher frequencies, above 6 GHz, but it poses technical challenges for mobile communications. The CRC's research is working to overcome these challenges.
The CRC has been working since 2014 on 5G technology and began demonstrating this technology in 2017. While 5G deployment is expected to start in 2020, the "Internet of Things" is already increasing connectivity. More and more, seamless connectivity will be woven into every aspect of society.
Ottawa City Hall has been identified as a suitable urban location for this testing and demonstration. We also run tests in other environments, such as offices.
As wireless communication and connectivity grow, we risk running out of usable spectrum. As steward of this valuable public resource, the government is working to open up new spectrum to make way for the next generation of wireless technology. The CRC's 5G research will provide access to modern digital infrastructure so Canadians can participate fully in the digital economy.
- Frequency, antenna and bandwidth
For 5G, we are looking at frequencies above 6 GHz, where there is a lot of spectrum available. The frequency band we are currently using at Ottawa City Hall is 28 GHz. The bandwidth for the 28 GHz band is about 1 GHz. We are currently using several different antennas for the demo, including omnidirectional antennas for the backpack, and both wide-beam and narrow-beam antennas at the base station.
- Engineered surfaces
Engineered surfaces are sheets of thin plastic printed with metallic ink, designed to capture radio frequencies and redirect them. They were designed as part of the Printed Electronics Consortium with the National Research Council. The Canadian company, GGI Solutions, prints the surfaces at their Montreal plant. Engineered surfaces act as specialized reflectors designed to redirect radio signals to areas that are not covered. They can be embedded into materials used inside (e.g., window blinds) and outside (e.g., billboard signs) to extend wireless coverage more cost effectively than adding numerous base stations.
- What about health concerns?
Engineered surfaces do not create additional power but redistribute existing power radiated from a base station or mobile unit transceivers. The CRC research team operates these transceivers in full compliance with Health Canada regulations.
CRC and City of Ottawa 5G Test Site
On November 24, 2017, the Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, officially launched the CRC and City of Ottawa 5G Test Site.
5G wireless networks will pave the way for the future. Everything from smart cities to self-driving cars and even virtual reality education. In partnership with the City of Ottawa, the CRC has built an outdoor 5G test site at City Hall to show that 5G mobile devices can communicate using millimetre waves and how to increase 5G coverage without adding transmitters.
"This is the future! 5G will impact every aspect of society. It will allow billions of devices to connect better and faster. This will lead to new, innovative applications of wireless technologies. The test site will help to advance Canada's competitive advantage in 5G by giving innovators the ability to use the facility and showcase 5G wireless applications in Ottawa. I encourage companies from across Canada and from across the world to come and participate in Ottawa's 5G innovation eco-system."
"The City of Ottawa is proud to partner with the Government of Canada's Communications Research Centre on the 5G test site at City Hall. Together, we are facilitating innovation, growing our knowledge-based economy and advancing connectivity for future generations. As a leader in Smart City initiatives, Ottawa is the clear choice for companies looking to develop 5G-enabled innovations."