The Massively Broadband Cloud Approaches

Ted Rappaport, now a leading figure in wireless communication, a friend from Purdue’s amateur radio club back in the day, has labeled (and trademarked) the coming era as Massively Broadband. He describes its promise in an article in Microwave Journal.

Computer speed, storage density and wired communication rates have increased by several orders of magnitude over the past two decades. Anyone still using 10 megabit Ethernet? More like 10 gigabit, 1000 times as fast!

But meanwhile, the frequencies used for wireless communication have increased just a little. Cellular has moved from 850 MHz to about 2 GHz, an increase of just two to three times as high.

Why the desire for high frequencies?

The higher you go in the radio spectrum, the broader the frequency bands and the more information you can pack into them. As Ted points out, today’s 60 GHz unlicensed band has more bandwidth than all existing commercial services combined — AM and FM broadcast, television, cellular, all the Wi-Fi bands, satellite television, and more. All of those plus amateur radio, air traffic control, Bluetooth and even more could fit into that one 60 GHz band with room to spare.

60 GHz is just a start. Other bands of interest lie at 185, 325 and 380 GHz, with corresponding enormous increases in channel capacity. Higher frequency means shorter wavelength, so efficient antennas can be much smaller.

What’s the security angle?

These frequencies share the characteristic of severe attenuation limits on propagation. Huh? In simple terms, the signals don’t go far because they’re quickly absorbed by water vapor or atmospheric gases. Some naval systems have used this for security for a few decades, using frequencies heavily attenuated by water vapor so they can communicate within a group of ships but the signals just don’t make it very far beyond the fleet.

However, we’re envisioning an immersive communications future. Your wireless devices will be communicating with other devices and a pervasive Internet all around you. Shrinking physical size and cost of these higher frequency devices will mean there is no “radio quiet zone”, at least not in urban areas. There will be no avoiding this pervasive high-speed connectivity.

Data will continue to move “to the cloud”, in ways we won’t even notice unless we analyze the situation carefully.

Your multiple devices will magically keep their vast data collections in sync. Update one, and all your devices see the same update. Why? Because the information is not really inside any of your devices. They’re all accessing your one data collection “out there in the cloud.”

Data is moving to the cloud. Realize this, and prepare for it.

You could say “We simply cannot use the cloud because of security issues.” If you say that, I would bet that you have a good procedure for installing new Thicknet Ethernet connections.

Learning Tree’s Cloud Security Essentials course provides some insight for protecting your data when it’s in the cloud. Well-shielded coaxial network cabling is not a part of it.

Bob Cromwell

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