Unless you’re an avid follower of IT news and emerging technology trends, you might not be aware of EHF bands.
However, they’re on their way – and they have as much power to change our lives as broadband and the Internet of Things.
Those were both emerging technologies one.
And although EHF bands haven’t figured prominently in the headlines lately, they could revolutionise the performance of IoT-enabled hardware.
In turn, that could transform how smart homes evolve.
Little wonder Ofcom is already making bandwidth available for hardware manufacturers to capitalise on.
So what’s the science behind EHF data transmission? And how could it help to shape tomorrow’s world?
Under a definition by the International Telecommunication Union, radio frequencies on the electromagnetic spectrum between 30GHz and 300GHz are classed as Extremely High Frequency, or EHF.
This is way above the 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequencies used by modern dual-band WiFi routers.
As you move higher up the frequency scale, the distance data can travel diminishes. However, speeds increase rapidly, as does the volume of data which can be transmitted.
At present, data usage above 100GHz is largely the preserve of satellites. However, last autumn, Ofcom announced they were freeing up 18GHz of bandwidth for future use.
This was split between the 116-122, 174-182 and 185-190GHz frequencies, and companies can apply for a licence to broadcast data within any one of these three bands.
Ofcom’s hope – shared by many engineers and developers – is that information transmitted between 116GHz and 190GHz could support near-instant device communications.
At present, our homes are filled with smart speakers and security systems, wireless entertainment devices and computers, all dependent on internet access.
There is unavoidable latency in every communication between these devices and the central servers powering them, let alone between one IoT device and another.
EHF communication would effectively eliminate such delays when coupled with edge computing, where data processing occurs locally on a device rather than remotely on a server.
It could allow huge amounts of information to be swapped between devices performing critical functions, such as quality assurance on high-speed production lines.
One for the future
At this stage, it’s not entirely clear which companies might seek to harness availability of EHF bands, or build technology to exploit it.
Ofcom has suggested uses including holographics and high definition 3D imaging, health screening and remote-controlled robotics.
It’s worth noting EHF communications aren’t expected to form part of future broadband or 5G networks at this stage, though future 6G technologies might operate above 110GHz.
Ofcom have simply stated their intention to make bandwidth available, underpinned by a more detailed review of the opportunities in 2024.
It will cost a company £75 to acquire an EHF transmission licence for a five-year period. All uses must be non-exclusive, technology-neutral and compliant with emissions restrictions.