Panasonic Corporation, Hiroshima University and Japan's National Institute of Information and Communications Technology announced Feb. 6 that they are developing a terahertz transmitter that can exceed data rates of 100 gigabits per second or at least 10 times faster than fifth-generation mobile networks.
Expected to be finished by 2020, the transmitter is set to be presented at the International Solid-State Circuits Conference 2017 in San Francisco, California.
As a frequency band, terahertz is new and vast, designed for use in ultra high-speed wireless communications in the future. The transmitter under development has been shown to achieve communication speeds of 105 gigabits (0.1 terabit) between the frequency ranges 290 GHz and 315 GHz. Currently, this frequency range is unallocated but sits within 275 GHz and 450 GHz — frequency ranges whose use will be discussed in 2019 at the World Radiocommunication Conference — as guided by the section on International Telecommunication Union Radiocommunication.
Last year, Minoru Fujishima and colleagues were able to show that a wireless link on the 300 GHz band could have enhanced speeds when quadrature amplitude modulation is used. This time, they demonstrated for the first time that rates going beyond 100 gigabits per second or six times higher than what channels are capable of can be achieved in a transmitter based on an integrated circuit. At this speed, it's possible for content equivalent in size to a DVD to be sent and received within just a fraction of a second.
Fujishima explained that wireless data rates are typically discussed in terms of megabits or gigabits per second. However, their work has shown that the conversation should start including terabits per second as they were already able to achieve the speed in a single communication channel. Fiber-optic technology has unlocked ultra high speeds for wired connections but wireless links have not had the same luck.
To more easily understand what a terahertz transmitter is all about, think fiber-optic speeds for wireless applications.
"That could, in turn, significantly boost in-flight network connection speeds, for example," said Fujishima.
Other potential applications for a terahertz transmitter include faster downloads from content servers to mobile devices, as well as ultrafast wireless connections between base stations.
High Data Rate Or Minimum Latency?
In the past, fiber-optic technology allowed for high-speed data rates but because optical fibers are made of glass, light speed slows down in them. Today, the choice would either be fiber optics if high data rates are preferred or microwave links if minimal latency is the goal. However, according to Fujishima, a terahertz transmitter can offer data rates like fiber optics but with minimal latency as well.
Earlier in January, Tufts University School of Engineering researchers published another study detailing the development of a chip-sized terahertz modulator. Even without a DC power supply, their creation can exceed 14 GHz and even work beyond 1 THz on the electromagnetic spectrum. A terahertz modulator paves the way for a new generation of wireless devices capable of transmitting terahertz frequencies at data transmission speeds that will leave current data rates in the dust.