Facebook, Deutsche Telekom double down on millimeter wave tech at 60 GHz

While a lot of the wireless industry focuses on 5G, including trials of millimeter wave at 28 GHz and other frequencies, Facebook, Deutsche Telekom and their partners are focused on putting millimeter wave work on the fast track, namely at 60 GHz.

The Telecom Infra Project (TIP) this week announced that it is launching the Millimeter Wave Networks Project Group to focus on use cases, including deploying mmWave to homes, businesses and apartment buildings, as well as providing mobile backhaul and establishing dense connectivity for smart city applications.

“We know there’s insatiable demands for broadband in the future, and at the same time, spectrum is one of those resources that is rare, there’s limited amounts of it,” said Yael Maguire, director of connectivity programs at Facebook.

Millimeter wave spectrum represents a great opportunity because there’s a lot of it. With the millimeter wave bands, which start around 10 GHz and go up to 90 GHz and above, there are huge swaths of spectrum, and Facebook has been developing a good amount of knowledge in the space.  

But it’s not easy. The 60 GHz band has its share of challenges, which seem to feed into the desire all the more to figure out how to make it work, including with regards to oxygen absorption, which at 60 GHz severely limits range. But oxygen absorption also could be turned into an ally.

One of the things Facebook has been interested in is testing unvalidated hypotheses, and, “for us, the unvalidated hypothesis is whether or not 60 GHz unlicensed spectrum can be used in the context of providing reliable broadband connectivity in dense urban environments,” Maguire said on the sidelines of Mobile World Congress Americas. They’re looking at a variety of use cases; it could be used to provide connectivity to homes, buildings--in general, thinking about how to provide connectivity in cities.

“We contend if you’re willing to make your mesh the number of links relatively short, oxygen is actually your friend,” he said. “That is our claim and we have to demonstrate this and prove this.” But that would actually make it possible to have a single frequency network where you basically jointly optimize the interference, and the oxygen absorption can be a benefit. 

Facebook is in cahoots, so to speak, with Deutsche Telekom in making it all work. Bruno Jacobfeuerborn, CTO of Deutsche Telekom, suggested that they may even do more than connect the unconnected; if it can work in undeveloped areas, it also may translate to developed areas as well.

“We are driving now and we like to be in the driver’s seat,” he said during a panel at MWCA. “We don’t know what the outcome will be, we are just running; we know what we’d like to have and if you have a target and you believe in it, I’m pretty sure you will then find the right people” to do it together and make it happen.

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TIP was founded last year by Facebook, Intel, DT, Nokia and SK Telecom and others.

“We like disruptive ideas, and this is a disruptive one,” Jacobfeuerborn said.