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CHIPS Articles: Advances in U.S. Mobile Cellular Technology

Advances in U.S. Mobile Cellular Technology
By Arthur R. DeLeon, Federal Spectrum Policy Lead for the Department of the Navy - April-June 2016
Editor’s Note: This article expands on U.S. mobile cellular technology, a subtopic of the previous CHIPS article, “The Future Landscape of Spectrum Technology,” which focused on innovation in mobile cellular technology and military Long Term Evolution (LTE) operational capabilities concepts.

Introduction

What does the future innovation of 5th generation technology hold and what does it look like? The growing demand for spectrum technology has created a division between wired and wireless technologies. For example, cell phones now eliminate the necessity for hardwired telephone systems. However, wireless capabilities do not replace wired capabilities; instead, the focus should be on interfacing these two technologies, which would significantly increase the available communication paths provided by cellular technology today. The future growth and success of enterprise mobility strategies, improved security, and efficient use of the spectrum will require the development of synergy between these key capabilities.

Mobile cellular technology capabilities have continued to grow and create new methods of interoperability across the United States. Long Term Evolution (LTE) base stations have changed traditional uses of wireless technology and have created affordable mobile computing capabilities. The growing expansion of mobile communications capabilities has changed the way we communicate, and they are essential to ensuring we continue to lead the world in wireless innovation.

Achieving Greater Innovation

Examples of wireless innovation include current capabilities that allow office phones to interface with cellular mobile devices amplifying the diverse capabilities of LTE. The ability to transition from your mobile handheld to your desk phone, with the call automatically transferred, is the foundation of innovation-based cellular technology. These types of interfaces illustrate how wired and wireless capabilities must integrate to make the most efficient use of a finite resource: spectrum. To succeed, the integration of wired and wireless capabilities will require a rapid deployment of wireless architectures.

To advance the expansion of integrated wireless technology and wired capabilities, we have to consider new methods to employ today's LTE base stations. We must consider the use of diversity capable frequency and agile base stations and their ability to place multiple signals on 5, 10, 15 or 20 MHz channels.

Our ability to double our capacity on a base station can be achieved by start and stop frequency patterns and time slots, improving the capability and making it more efficient. The improved capacity will allow the operation for two overlapping signals on an LTE base station within one cellular frequency block. The offset or separation of LTE resource blocks is key in preventing the two signals from interfering with each other. This capability will also provide efficient methods for military radios to use shared bandwidth on LTE.

Every Home is a Communication Node

The shared use of spectrum also provides the foundation for future unmanned aerial system (UAS) package delivery concepts. The ubiquitous use of home wireless router services has provided a great capability to allow shared access for Wi-Fi cell service, UAS package delivery, and autonomous robotics and vehicles.

A wireless router provides home broadband companies with the ability to partition wireless routers into two services: internal home and external home requirements. The router will need to create a physical separation between home wireless and external wireless requirements. Once achieved, a home can now radiate a low powered communication node that can be shared with other cellular users driving or walking by.

Using solar roofing shingles with integrated white LED visual lighting communications will provide another method to track and update UAS routes and provide green power to a home. In this scenario, your home mailbox will provide wireless power or inductive charging capabilities to an unmanned delivery system, whether it is an aerial or ground robotic. The key to this capability is that the mailbox will need a wired and wireless component for authentication purposes to validate the correct delivery point, receive new instructions, validate battery levels, and request maintenance.

Highway Infrastructure Improvement: a Road to Wireless Innovation

Our interstate system and highways continue to be improved, new bridges are built, and barriers are installed to reduce traffic noise to communities. Improvements to our highways have been ongoing for many years, and I have to ask: Why are we not making full use of these new structures for everyday communications? For example, the barriers installed on our highways today are underutilized structures that stretch, in some cases, for thousands of miles. Integrating these structures into cellular networks (see Figure 1) would significantly improve communications on our highways. It could also create a low power communication solution for those cities in the U.S. with severe highway traffic congestion. This approach will lead to “next generation” highways and the application of smart grid technology.

By 2035, interstates and highways will begin transitioning from asphalt to integrated solar and LED lighting capabilities to provide the necessary communication platforms to support the future of autonomous highways and smart grid technology (see Figure 2). Notifications of hazards on the highway will be fully integrated into onboard communications in autonomous vehicles which will automatically notify the authorities or the appropriate facilities management personnel to resolve the hazard.

Concepts for Innovation in Military Cellular Operations

The use of cellular technology within military communications systems provides the ability for the U.S. military to build a highly robust architecture integrating security and agility into their networks. Military communications systems must be designed to meet current and future global spectrum requirements, and they must have integrated security and frequency band hopping abilities similar to the technology in cell phones today.

The antenna is the key factor to providing a capable multiband system able to support military operations. Integrating the concepts used in today’s cellular spectrum reuse design provides the ability to expand our military utility significantly. The use of cellular layout schemes will allow multiple wideband capable panel antennas to connect and allow military communications to operate over multiple bands seamlessly (see Figure 3). Integrating optical receive capabilities into the antenna in the future will allow UAS to download imagery and several other key capabilities used by the military.

White LED visual lighting communications provide great options for communicating in today’s command operation centers, reducing the cost of local area network (LAN) cable purchased to support today’s exercises, and in general, providing better communication aboard ships and submarines. It does not eliminate the requirement for wired communications in these configurations; however, it is a great supplement to communications with high bandwidth capabilities. Use of LED lighting will also improve the speed of setup and teardown related to the removal and reapplication of LAN cable.

Conclusion

The integration of wired and cellular wireless technologies will provide the fundamental requirements and flexibility for future innovation in spectrum-dependent technologies. The Department of the Navy will continue to evaluate the military utility of integrating LTE technologies into military nodal communication requirements.

Arthur R. DeLeon is the Federal Spectrum Policy Lead for the Department of the Navy in the office of the DON Chief Information Officer.

Figure 1. Artist concept cellular antenna panels applied to a concrete barrier. Image by Arthur R. DeLeon.
Figure 1. Artist concept cellular antenna panels applied to a concrete barrier. Image by Arthur R. DeLeon.

Figure 2. Concept of highway integrated solar and LED lighting capabilities. Screenshot from the “Solar FREAKIN’ Roadways! Join the Revolution” video published by Planetsave.com May 26, 2014.
Figure 2. Concept of highway integrated solar and LED lighting capabilities. Screenshot from the “Solar FREAKIN’ Roadways! Join the Revolution” video published by Planetsave.com May 26, 2014.

Figure 3. This antenna construct was developed by the author, Arthur Deleon, to enable integration of multiple wide-band capable antennas into military operations.
Figure 3. This antenna construct was developed by the author, Arthur Deleon, to enable integration of multiple wide-band capable antennas into military operations.
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