NTT Docomo presents HAPS, Metasurface lens and Pinching antenna at MWC 2021

With so many 6G announcements, whitepapers, etc. being published non-stop, we missed the fact that NTT Docomo has been updating its 6G whitepaper. The latest version is 3.0 that was released in Feb 2021 and available here.

Due to the ongoing pandemic, Docomo organized virtual exhibitions for MWC 2021. The online exhibitions introduce DOCOMO's latest initiatives for new services leveraging 5G, global business development, and R&D targeting 6G. More information is available here.

The 5G evolution & 6G exhibit talks about Metasurface lens, pinching antenna and high-altitude platform stations (HAPS) for improved communication stability and expanded coverage in ultra-high-speed communication areas. 

The following is a brief summary from the exhibit

Improving indoor coverage using pinching antenna

Conventional technology for building mobile communication areas have not allowed for easy switching, and we have been limited to minor area adjustments set through parameters. This has made it difficult to make necessary changes to the area from on site. To address this challenge, NTT DOCOMO developed a “pinching antenna” in which a simple pinch to the cable can switch the site of wave emission, successfully developing a technology that enables on-site adjustments to the area.

Waves are transmitted along a dielectric waveguide, and this technology adopts the phenomenon that when the line is pinched with a different dielectric material, radio wave leakage occurs. Pinching at multiple points causes the pinched locations to function as antennae.

Improving indoor coverage using metasurface lens

Because higher frequencies such as millimeter waves are especially sensitive to the presence of walls, one major issue is how to simplify construction of indoor communication spaces. We were considering one possible solution to improve coverage, which is to effectively draw outside radio waves inside through a relay system.

We have been examining various “metamaterial technologies” and their use in improving communication environments, and in January 2021 developed a “metasurface lens” for application on glass surfaces. We are seeing success in developing the technology to gather radio waves from outside and draw them indoors.

Achieving Non-terrestrial Networks using HAPS

High Altitude Platform Stations (HAPS) are closer to the earth’s surface than geosynchronous satellites, making it easier to achieve higher speed communication than satellites.

Launching HAPS with wireless devices installed makes it possible to create an area with a 50km radius from the HAPS location offering up to 10Gbps. In particular, using broadband millimeter-wave radio waves makes it possible to supply in a timely manner the high-speed, high-capacity, low latency circuits demanded in a wide range of business and event settings, irrespective of location at sea, mid-air, or in isolated sites. HAPS also has applications for public safety in times of disaster.

More details on the exhibit is available here. All the MWC demos can be seen here.

The video below provides a summary of the exhibit

An unofficial video on this topic, in Japanese, from Docomo's special showcase in Tokyo is available here.

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