Integrated Millimeter Wave and Sub-6 GHz Wireless Networks: A Roadmap for Joint Mobile Broadband and Ultra-Reliable Low-Latency Communications

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IEEE Wireless Communications Magazine






Emerging wireless services such as augmented reality require next-generation wireless networks to support ultra-reliable and low-latency communication (URLLC), while also guaranteeing high data rates. Existing wireless networks that solely rely on the scarce sub-6 GHz, microwave ($\mu$W) frequency bands will be unable to meet the low-latency, high capacity requirements of future wireless services. Meanwhile, operating at high-frequency millimeter wave (mmWave) bands is seen as an attractive solution, primarily due to the bandwidth availability and possibility of large-scale multi-antenna communication. However, even though leveraging the large bandwidth at mmWave frequencies can potentially boost the wireless capacity and reduce the transmission delay for low-latency applications, mmWave communication is inherently unreliable due to its susceptibility to blockage, high path loss, and channel uncertainty. Hence, to provide URLLC and high-speed wireless access, it is desirable to seamlessly integrate the reliability of $\mu$W networks with the high capacity of mmWave networks. To this end, in this paper, the first comprehensive tutorial for integrated mmWave-$\mu$W communications is introduced. This envisioned integrated design will enable wireless networks to achieve URLLC along with high data rates by leveraging the best of two worlds: reliable, long-range communications at the $\mu$W bands and directional high-speed communications at the mmWave frequencies. To achieve this goal, key solution concepts are developed that include new architectures for the radio interface, URLLC-aware frame structure and resource allocation methods along with learning techniques, as well as mobility management, to realize the potential of integrated mmWave-$\mu$W communications. The opportunities and challenges of each proposed scheme are discussed and key results are presented.