Low-Power, Low-Cost Network Developed for 5G Connectivity

5G Internet of Things

A millimeter wave network for billions of things.

Researchers at the University of Waterloo have developed a cheaper and more efficient method for Internet-of-Things devices to receive high-speed wireless connectivity.

With 75 billion Internet of Things (IoT) devices expected to be in place by 2025, a growing strain will be placed on the requirements of wireless networks. Contemporary WiFi and cellular networks won’t be enough to support the influx of IoT devices, the researchers highlighted in their new study.

Millimeter wave (mmWave), a network that offers multi-gigahertz of unlicensed bandwidth — more than 200 times that allocated to today’s WiFi and cellular networks, can be used to address the looming issue. In fact, 5G networks are going to be powered by mmWave technology. However, the hardware required to use mmWave is expensive and power-hungry, which are significant deterrents to it being deployed in many IoT applications.

“To address the existing challenges in exploiting mmWave for IoT applications we created a novel mmWave network called mmX,” said Omid Abari, an assistant professor in Waterloo’s David R. Cheriton School of Computer Science. “mmX significantly reduces the cost and power consumption of a mmWave network enabling its use in all IoT applications.”

In comparison to WiFi and Bluetooth, which are slow for many IoT applications, mmX provides much higher bitrate.

“mmX will not only improve our WiFi and wireless experience, as we will receive much faster internet connectivity for all IoT devices, but it can also be used in applications, such as virtual reality, autonomous cars, data centers, and wireless cellular networks,” said Ali Abedi, a postdoctoral fellow at the Cheriton School of Computer Science. “Any sensor you have in your home, which traditionally used WiFi and lower frequency can now communicate using high-speed millimeter wave networks.

“Autonomous cars are also going to use a huge number of sensors in them which will be connected through the wire; now you can make all of them wireless and more reliable.”


Reference: “A millimeter wave network for billions of things” by Mohammad H. Mazaheri, Soroush Ameli, Ali Abedi and Omid Abari, 19 August 2019, SIGCOMM ’19: Proceedings of the ACM Special Interest Group on Data Communication.
DOI: 10.1145/3341302.3342068


With the advent of the Internet of Things (IoT), billions of new connected devices will come online, placing a huge strain on today’s WiFi and cellular spectrum. This problem will be further exacerbated by the fact that many of these IoT devices are low-power devices that use low-rate modulation schemes and therefore do not use the spectrum efficiently. Millimeter wave (mmWave) technology promises to revolutionize wireless networks and solve spectrum shortage problem through the usage of massive chunks of high-frequency spectrum. However, adapting this technology presents challenges. Past work has addressed challenges in using mmWave for emerging applications, such as 5G, virtual reality and data centers, which require multiple-gigabits-per-second links, while having substantial energy and computing power. In contrast, this paper focuses on designing a mmWave network for low-power, low-cost IoT devices. We address the key challenges that prevent existing mmWave technology from being used for such IoT devices. First, current mmWave radios are power hungry and expensive. Second, mmWave radios use directional antennas to search for the best beam alignment. Existing beam searching techniques are complex and require feedback from access points (AP), which makes them unsuitable for low-power, low-cost IoT devices. We present mmX, a novel mmWave network that addresses existing challenges in exploiting mmWave for IoT devices. We implemented mmX and evaluated it empirically.

3 Comments on "Low-Power, Low-Cost Network Developed for 5G Connectivity"

  1. If it could operate at low enough power levels, wouldn’t that help alleviate some of the health concerns related to 5G?

  2. I’ve seen many articles on Drudge that question the safety of 5G. Is there any cause for concern, or is it just tinfoil hat nonsense?

    • It is still being studied, but it seems like radiofrequency radiation from 5G is unlikely to be a significant health concern. It is indeed non-ionizing radiation, so it probably isn’t an issue since we are already surrounded by non-ionizing radiation. (Even ignoring existing cell phones, WiFi, Bluetooth, radio, television, etc. sunlight is higher frequency non-ionizing radiation than 5G.)

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