wireless lanThe IEEE said late yesterday it has created a study group to explore ultra-high-speed, short-range wireless communications to support wireless personal area networks (WPANs). The target speed is 100 Gbps over distances as great as several hundred meters using unlicensed spectrum in the terahertz range.

One goal of this technology is to allow various wireless devices to communicate with one another. You could think of it as a much higher-bandwidth alternative to Bluetooth. It also could be used for wireless fronthaul and backhaul or to connect devices within a data center.
The new study group will develop a project proposal for an amendment to the IEEE 802.15.3 standard for information technology – local and metropolitan area networks.

Yesterday’s release announcing the new study group doesn’t provide information about when this technology might be commercialized. But based on other industry standards efforts, it’s likely to take several years.

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So what does WPAN mean to communications service providers?

An IEEE spokesperson was not available to answer questions today but it would appear that this technology would be good for connecting computers to printers, multimedia systems and the like. The more bandwidth available, the faster such connections can be made. And as devices will likely be connected to the Internet, that means this technology could be one more driver of additional bandwidth requirements on the access link.

Potentially service providers also could add cutting edge multimedia offerings to their video services – offerings that may not even have been imagined yet.

WPANs also represent an opportunity for service providers to expand their tech support offerings by helping customers install these devices in their homes or businesses.

Another potential application that will be of interest to wireless service providers is to use the technology for wireless backhaul and fronthaul. The latter is a term increasingly used in the wireless industry to describe the connection from the top to bottom of a cell tower.

Currently fronthaul connections often are made using fiber – which can be a major challenge to install and maintain in bad weather. In comparison, it would seem that WPAN could simplify fronthaul equipment installation and maintenance.

Someone would still need to climb the cell tower to put a transceiver there. But that should be simpler than securing fiber from the top to the bottom of the tower.

Third, the ability to use 100 G  high-bandwidth wireless connectivity in data centers would seem to be a good way to simplify installation and maintenance of data center equipment as well.

The new IEEE study group will build on years of work conducted in an IEEE working group focused on the same technology, said Bob Heile, chair of the IEEE 802.15 working group, in an announcement issued  today about the new group.

“A standard in this domain could have significant commercial value and help set the stage for additional uses and applications,” said Heile.

Image courtesy of flickr user FutUndBeidl.

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