As 5G pushes the limits for wireless data transfer speeds, 5G antennas and repeaters must be placed much more carefully than older radio and cellular systems. The higher frequency signals of 5G are more easily absorbed by buildings and trees than existing 4G signals, meaning 5G repeaters must be able to be placed and moved more quickly as a city’s skyline changes. To accomplish all of this, the development of 5G infrastructure is using an unusual tool: Light Detection and Ranging, or LiDAR.
From an article in Electronics360 by Seth Price.
Hardware for 5G systems cannot be simply placed on existing cellular phone towers and be expected to perform at high-speed. The unforgiving line-of-site requirements and high absorption of higher frequency signals require 5G hardware to be distributed smartly around the nation.
For existing cellular infrastructure, large towers were built at semi-regular intervals. Each tower required careful site planning. This level of site-planning is impractical for 5G antennas systems, given that 5G systems need many more sites than the older 4G systems. Instead, there needed to be a way to evaluate sites quickly and deploy many, much smaller 5G repeaters.
Enter LiDAR. LiDAR uses pulsed light (1 million times per second) to make an accurate, 3D computer model of a geographic area, such as a town or shopping center. These models are created by measuring the time it takes for a light pulse to reflect back to a detector, in much the same way as radar or sonar do for radio and sound waves, respectively.
The resolution of this model, called a “digital twin”, can be accurate to 1 m. Data processing algorithms such as the Semi-Global Matching (SGM) can determine if an object is a tree, a park bench or a brick building.
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