200 Mbps UK 5G Trial Looks to Scrap Air Traffic Radar for "Retro" System
February 14, 2013 5:03 PM
Scheme would ditch active radar for so-called "passive radar"
4G LTE is still
in the process of rolling out
in the U.S., but industry leaders in Europe are already
looking forward to the development of 5G
-- fifth generation wireless technologies. The big problem facing the planners is a lack of spectrum to handle the load of pushing masses of data over the air at rates that rival today's wired internet.
I. Radar Goes Retro, Looks to Free Space for 5G
In hopes of find spare spectrum, the Technology Strategy Board has reached out to and provided funding for research by Thales SpA (
), a top radar manufacturer in looking to free up the spectrum currently used by air traffic control for radar.
The new scheme involves using existing TV signals in a scheme called "multi-static primary surveillance radar". Also known as "passive radar", Thales thinks the technology could provide a more reliable, more precise replacement to the active radar that has been in use since World War II.
Thales promises its testing will not involve any potentially dangerous disruptions of the current radar system. It
, "This two year project will be a feasibility study which will set up prototype systems that will use TV signals already being broadcast from transmitters around the UK. Absolutely no radar systems will be switched off during the study, which will report to regulators and the air transport industry."
Air traffic controllers could be switching from active radar to passive radar systems.
[Image Source: Wikimedia Commons]
The technology is in many ways a return to radar's roots. Before radar-equipped crafts gained antennas capable of sending and receiving, radar experiments worked by picking up shortwave radio signals from land broadcast stations. For example, in the 1935 first demonstration of radar by Robert Watson-Watt a Handley Page Heyford bomber picked up shortwave radio signals from a BBC Radio station 12 km away.
For years, though, active radar was dramatically more reliable than passive methods. But that is finally changing. Advanced digital signal processing and directional antenna technologies are allowing a new breed of passive detection.
II. Advantages Abound
Thales says a switch to passive radar would cut power consumption. And it adds, "This system should be more cost effective, as it uses signals which are already being transmitted. Digital TV is part of the critical national infrastructure, so it is already safeguarded and will be reliable."
Thales, NATS Holdings, and Roke Manor Research -- the commercial partners on the project -- will pay half the costs, in hopes of profiting off a potential switch.
5G trials are expected to serve up data over the air at 200 Mbps.
5G technology will be tested later in this year in the UK, with speeds of up to 200 Mbps over the air. The tests will be conducted by the
University of Surrey
5G Innovation Centre
, which received £35M ($54.3M USD) for the test.
But there's one big question -- will the public be comfortable with accepting a transition of such a safety critical system to a new technology?
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