millimeter wave (MM wave)

Contributor(s): Katherine Finnell

Millimeter wave (also millimeter band) is the band of spectrum between 30 gigahertz (Ghz) and 300 Ghz. Researchers are testing 5G wireless broadband technology on millimeter wave spectrum.

Millimeter wave, which is also known as extremely high frequency (EHF)  or very high frequency (VHF) by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), can be used for high-speed wireless broadband communications. Millimeter wave is an undeveloped band of spectrum that can be used in a broad range of products and services like high speed, point-to-point wireless local area networks (WLANs) and broadband access. In telecommunications, millimeter wave is used for a variety of services on mobile and wireless networks, as it allows for higher data rates up to 10 Gbps.

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Millimeter waves have short wavelengths that range from 10 millimeters to 1 millimeter; they have high atmospheric attenuation and are absorbed by gases in the atmosphere, which reduces the range and strength of the waves. Rain and humidity can impact performance and reduce signal strength, a condition known rain fade. Due to its short range of about a kilometer, millimeter wave travels by line of sight, so its high-frequency wavelengths can be blocked by physical objects like buildings and trees.

High-bandwidth point-to-point communication links are used on millimeter wave ranging from 71 Ghz to 76 Ghz, 81 Ghz to 86 Ghz and 92 Ghz to 95 Ghz, and require a license from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Unlicensed short-range data links can be used on 60 Ghz millimeter wave. The IEEE Wi-Fi standard 802.11ad will run on 60 Ghz millimeter wave.

This was last updated in April 2015

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