NYU Wireless announced it has received the largest donation in its history, courtesy of Keysight Technologies. The organizations have a clear purpose in mind: to create next-generation 6G cellular technologies and further development of 5G.

As New York University’s wireless research arm, NYU Wireless helped pioneer the use of millimeter wave spectrum in upcoming cellular networks, eventually leading to pocket-sized devices that transmit on the same 20+ gigahertz frequencies as gigantic satellite dishes. Keysight’s donation is intended to enable future telecommunications devices to use even higher frequencies — 100 gigahertz, and eventually the terahertz range. Speeds with 6G are expected to be 1000 times faster than with 5G.

The donation includes equipment that can measure up to 110-gigahertz frequencies, enabling NYU Wireless researchers to develop uses of millimeter wave and terahertz electromagnetic spectra. Described as “cutting-edge,” the hardware includes millimeter wave and broadband signal analysis and generation tools, advanced time-domain analysis, and RF/millimeter wave power measurement capabilities. No dollar value was given for the donation, but it is the largest NYU Wireless has received and the largest in-kind donation ever made to NYU’s Tandon School of Engineering.

Teams of NYU Wireless researchers are already working on terahertz research, quantum devices, and “post-massive MIMO antennas,” innovations that will likely come into play a decade from now. Terahertz frequencies promise everything from high bandwidth to strong building penetrability and good directionality, including the ability to pass safely through people and non-conducting objects.

Engineers at Finland’s University of Oulu have been working on 6G for some time, and U.S. FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel recently discussed the contours of the future technology, noting that beyond its speed, it is expected to rely on mesh-style densified networks — base stations embedded in every piece of technology people use, potentially employing blockchain to facilitate dynamic spectrum sharing.

Like 5G, 6G faces a fundamental engineering challenge: miniaturizing presently large terahertz transmitters and receivers. Qualcomm and others spent years reducing millimeter wave components from the size of satellite dishes and airport body scanners to fingertip-sized modems and antennas. There was also the matter of developing an international 5G standard, which was only recently finalized. The same processes will need to take place again for 6G, albeit with the benefit of lessons already learned.

Keysight and NYU Wireless expect their new research to impact communications, medical imaging, pharmaceutical monitoring, semiconductors, spectroscopy, and “synchronized clouds of ‘smart dust’ detectors.” In addition to the equipment donation, Keysight’s 5G program manager, Roger Nichols, and his team will serve as mentors to NYU Wireless’ student researchers, joining 5G pioneer Dr. Ted Rappaport as he returns to direct the unit’s research initiatives.

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