Daniel Shanti-Dev Holmes-Mitra
A Detailed Characterization of 60 GHz Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11ad)
Catherine Gebotys and Gordon Agnew
The emergence of wireless local area network (WLAN) standards and the global system of mobile communication (GSM) in the early 1990s incited tremendous growth in the demand for wireless connectivity. Iterative technological enhancements to cellular and WLAN improved wireless capacity and created a breadth of new mobile applications. The continued increase in display resolutions and image quality combined with streaming displacing satellite/cable has created unprecedented demands on wireless infrastructure. Data-caps on cellular networks deter over consumption and increasingly shift the growing burden to Wi-Fi networks. The traditional 2.4/5 GHz Wi-Fi bands have become overloaded and the increasing number of wireless devices in the home, public, and workplace create difficult challenges to deliver quality service to large numbers of client stations. In dense urban areas, the wireless medium is subjected to increased interference due to overlapping networks and other devices communicating in the same frequency bands. Improvements to conventional Wi-Fi are approaching their theoretical limits and higher order enhancements require idealized conditions which are seldom attainable in practice.
In an effort to supplant to scaling capacity requirements a very high frequency WLAN amendment has been proposed (IEEE 802.11ad). IEEE 802.11ad, also referred to as Wireless Gigabit (WiGig), operates in the globally unlicensed 60 GHz band and offers channel bandwidths nearly 100x as wide as 802.11n. The higher bandwidth facilitates multi-Gbps throughput even with the use of lower complexity modulation coding schemes (MCS). IEEE 802.11ad relies heavily on rate adaptation and high beamforming gain to mitigate interference and fading as signals in the 60 GHz band suffer from higher atmospheric absorption and free space path loss (FSPL). Due to the unique nature of 60 GHz wireless there have been numerous research efforts. Many studies have been directed at simulation & modeling of the 60 GHz channel. However modeling the channel is difficult as real-world environments are highly dynamic with varying link quality and conditions which cannot be accurately predicted by conventional techniques. Some research is focused on medium access control (MAC) enhancements to improve overall capacity by coordinating concurrent links or reducing communication overhead for example. Lastly, there has been a limited amount of real world testing of 802.11ad due to lack of availability of commercial platforms and measurement instrumentation. Some researchers tested early generation devices in certain use cases such as in vehicles for media streaming, in data centers to augment the wired network, or in basic indoor and outdoor environments.
This research contains two main components. In the first analytical models are applied to estimate line of sight (LOS) 802.11ad performance for realistic antenna parameters. The second part contains a comprehensive evaluation of performance and reliability of early generation 802.11ad hardware. This characterization emphasizes environmental performance (e.g. conference room, cubical farm, open office), multiple-client testing (multiclient), multiple network interference (spatial re-use), and stability in the presence of station mobility, physical obstructions, and antenna misalignment. In order to evaluate 802.11ad, early generation platforms from technology vendors were used in extensive test suites. The hardware tested included docks for wireless personal area networking (WPAN) applications, client laptop stations, and reference design access points (APs). Finally, a customized proof-of-concept (PoC) platform was engineered which allowed finer control over front end antenna configuration parameters such as: topology, placement and orientation. The PoC also served as a suitable means to identify practical limitations and system design engineering challenges associated with supporting directional multi-Gbps (DMG) communication in the 60 GHz band.
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