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School of Engineering

Millimeter wave interference

Thursday, August 22, 2019
Faculty at Tufts and New York University will model the interference and effects of hands blocking cellphone signals.
Associate Professor Mai Vu working out an equation

A research team from Tufts University and New York University has been awarded National Science Foundation funding to investigate and model interference in millimeter wave (mmWave) communication networks.

Millimeter waves have been used mostly in indoor WiFi networks to transfer large amounts of data among computers and only now are planned for use in outdoor cellular 5G networks. These data-carrying waves operate in high frequency ranges that result in wavelengths that are very short – of the order of millimeters – and are more susceptible to blockage and interference compared to the low frequency waves that operate in current cellular systems. That means millimeter waves can easily be disrupted – for instance, by the hand or head of someone using a cell phone.

The resiliency of millimeter waves will be essential in the next generation of 5G wireless network communications. 5G wireless networks will rely on millimeter waves to provide service to devices like cell phones, autonomous vehicles, and drones. These waves require shorter ranges between devices and base stations and necessitate dense base station placement. Such dense outdoor millimeter wave communications raise new concerns regarding interference. These challenges will need to be understood and addressed to create a functioning 5G network.

Tufts Associate Professor Mai Vu and David Lee/Ernst Weber Professor Theodore Rappaport of New York University seek to address these challenges in their grant-funded research. The duo will investigate the behavior of millimeter waves in an open-source mmWave simulation platform called NYUSIM, which is built based on actual millimeter wave signal measurements. This platform will allow Vu and Rappaport to evaluate the effects of humans holding or reorienting a device within a network, while also examining interference resulting from device density in urban and suburban environments.

Vu’s research builds on her work investigating how to overcome crucial obstacles currently blocking the widespread adoption of mmWave communication.

This work was supported by the National Science Foundation (#102984).