The Next Generation of Wireless Networks

Researchers at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City are working to develop the next generation Internet. It’s part of an initiative called Powder-Renew. In this segment, we discover how the program is working to create the next generation internet, by testing the capabilities of wireless technology.


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The next generation of Internet, the way it is being envisioned, would actually connect everything to the Internet.

It could be our cars, drones, AR, VR, and the list goes on.

But the problem is, how do we invent the next-generation Internet?

The main aim for this project is to build a test bed with the researchers and both in the academic setting and the corporate setting can use to test out new ideas, which will then make the next-generation Internet a reality.

So, POWDER is an acronym for Platform for Open Wireless Data-driven Experimental Research.

It's also the name of the wireless and mobile test bed that we're building in Salt Lake City and on the campus of the University of Utah.

As we thought through what it is that we're building with Powder-RENEW, we realized that we really have a number of world firsts in terms of the way that we're approaching the problem and the actual platform that we will be building.

We have essentially four world firsts.

We have an end-to-end software-defined wireless lab environmentals.

We want to enable research in wireless and mobile technologies, but it's city scale because we need to have the scalability to do real-world experimentation at scale, and then the way we're building the platform is by making use of software-defined technologies end-to-end, and that gives us the flexibility that, you know, today it might be a 5G infrastructure, and tomorrow it might be a 6G infrastructure.

So, the second one is, we have the technologies to allow us to enable researchers from novice to expert.

So whether you're, like, an undergraduate just learning about wireless or whether you're the world expert in the space, we have the technologies and the mechanisms to support that.

Finally, the RENEW team will be providing us with very unique massive MIMO technologies.

If we put more than one antenna in one spot, for example, our cell towers, then we know that we're going to increase the data rates.

We can make the communication more reliable.

But the interesting things which we have learned in the last few years is that if you go beyond the current generation, which only uses two DU8 antennas, we put hundreds of antennas in one spot, dramatically increase the data rates and number of, you know, devices you can support, the reliability you can get.

This idea of putting hundreds of antennas in one spot is called Massive MIMO, and then Rice University is one of the first few universities which has actually built such a system, which is then going to become part of the POWDER deployment on the Utah campus.

So we're on the Honors Residence Building at the University of Utah.

This would be one of the main rooftop deployments for the RENEW Powder test bed that we're deploying here in Salt Lake City.

So we're going to have 10 sites on campus and overall, like, 18 sites between the campus and the downtown area.

So, really, what we're doing out here this morning is, we've done a lot of RF simulations to predict the coverage we would get for our deployment area, and so what we're doing this morning is we have a little rickety setup to make sure that the measurements that we get correspond to the simulation results that we got before.

Signal strength here and the signal we pick up -- See, the blue is better.

Green is getting to be a little less good.

Yellow is starting to get pretty weak, and red is almost gone, in terms of what we can pick up.

Based on that, we will, you know, finalize the actual deployment sites.

The Honors Building is sort of on the southern side of the University of Utah campus.

We have a bunch of university bus routes or shuttle routes that come by here that we hope to cover with our rooftop deployments because we will have equipment on these buses, end-point equipment, that will basically drive around and give us the mobility for our test bed.

Our colleagues are driving a car around campus, and we are actually running a transmitter station here, where we're sending a signal that they'll attempt to receive from different points and log the received signal strength to see whether this is an adequate location to use in our real deployment coming up later this year.

So this laptop here is controlling these radios, which, in turn, is connected to four antennas we've mounted along the barrier at the edge of the roof.

We'll be transmitting on two different frequencies today, and, similarly, they'll have multiple receive antennas in their car.

They are driving around following the shuttle routes that we're going to be using.

These radios are entirely software-controlled, and so the computer is actually synthesizing the waveform that is transmitted over the antennas, and then the counterpart stationed on the receive end works the same way.

We really would like to invite academic researchers, industrial researchers, people who work at national laboratories to take a look at and look at the work that we've done already and that we're planning to do and provide us input.

We're relatively early on in the process, and so we're really looking for input from people who have interesting research, use cases that might impact the way that we're finalizing the design of our platform.