Integrated photonic transceivers at sub-terahertz wave range for ultra-wideband wireless communications

FP7 ICT-5-3.9 Microsystems and Smart Miniaturised Systems

This project is supported by the European Commission under the Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) Theme of the 7th Framework Programme, within the Smart micro/nano systems area of ICT Challenge 3: Components, Systems, engineering.

Project Overview

Basic information 

Project acronym: iPHOS
Project full title: " Integrated photonic transceivers at sub-terahertz wave range for ultra-wideband wireless communications "
Grant agreement no: 257539
Duration: June 2010 – May 2013


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Project background

The widespread use of mobile devices providing access to e-mail services or to social network contents is demanding an increase of the capacity of the wireless communication networks. The need to exchange files of increasing size is producing forecasts that indicate that by 2015 traffic from wireless devices will exceed traffic from wired devices.

To cope with this demand there are various possible alternative solutions. A cost-effective solution is to increase the carrier wave frequencies around the atmospheric window at the E-band (60 to 90 GHz) and the F-band (90 to 140 GHz). Regulation bodies all around the world are allocating high frequency bands for these purposes in both E and F bands (71-76 GHz, 81-86 GHz, 92-96 GHz) and it is expected that the number of operators offering FD-LTE (Frequency division – Long term evolution) and WiMAX based femtocells will grow up to the 25% by 2012. This situation implies the opening of a new market to develop the wireless communication systems within these frequency ranges.

Microwave photonics have become a disruptive technology in the development of wireless transmission systems in these frequency ranges. Photonic technologies present several important advantages, being capable of performing important signal processing functions in the optical domain such as generation of low phase noise millimetre-wave carrier frequencies above 100 GHz, ultra-wide frequency tunability and broadband modulation. Photonic-enabled wireless transmission systems in the E-band have already reached data rates of 12.5 Gbps with On-Off modulation schemes and up to 27 Gbps with spectrally efficient modulation techniques.

In addition to these unique advantages, two main factors boosted the competitive advantage over other technologies such as all-electronic systems: the advances leading to Photonic Integrated Circuits (PIC) and availability of high-speed photodetectors. Photonic integration is crucial to develop cost-effective solutions that incorporate the required functions in a single chip.

The generation of the carrier wave frequencies method consists in photomixing two optical wavelengths on a high speed photodiode, which in combination with injection and phase locking techniques can generate tuneable, high power, narrow linewidth millimetre carrier wave signals. The photodiode is a key component in these systems, being the element where the optical-electrical conversion is made. Uni-Travelling Carrier Photodiodes (UTC-PDs) have been the dominant type of photodiodes for these applications due to their wide bandwidth and high millimetre-wave output power levels.

The development of compact and low power transceivers that enable wireless data transfer at sub-terahertz carrier frequencies, and their application to high data rate short-distance communication links are the key aspects being addressed in the iPHOS FP7 European Research project. The technical challenge is the integration of all these elements into the same package, including high purity integrated heterodyne sources, passive optical couplers and connecting waveguides, electro-optical modulators for data encoding and high speed photodiode for electro-optical conversion.

The system concept, will require a strong effort on chip integration as well as advanced packaging technology, which will contribute to the goal by providing a compact and rugged system. The application targeted by iPHOS is future on-board flight entertainment systems, where high volume video files are to be delivered on demand, relieving the aircraft of the heavy copper connections.


Project objectives 

This project targets the development of compact and low power transceivers that enable wireless data transfer at sub-terahertz carrier frequencies and their application to future high data-rate short-distance communication links.

The interest of the topic relies in the fact that advances in semiconductor technology, favourable spectrum policy and demand for gigabit throughput capabilities have created an opportunity for millimetre wave radio technology above 100GHz.


We propose optical techniques to generate the carrier wave, enabling us to integrate a high level of functionality (carrier wave tunability, data modulation). The carrier frequency will result from beating two optical modes from dual mode laser on a high speed photodiode with an integrated antenna. The building blocks of the intended system are:


Using optical techniques, there have been previous develpments, at 60 GHz and 120 GHz by the EU funded IP project IPHOBAC and NTT respectively. The systems, shown below, make use of discrete components.


The iPHOS research plan aims to address what has been identified as the “Achilles heel” of systems operating in this frequency range: “Lack of reliable, compact low cost sources which can give rise to commercially successful products”.  All-electronic systems are currently being developed (fc < 100GHz). Above 100GHz, optical techniques are used to generate carrier.


Photonic technologies enable the effective use of radio-over-fiber technologies in the link configuration, while all-electronic technologies have advantages in size and cost. This is the main objective of the project, to address the size and cost of photonic solutions by the use of photonic integration.

The first application field targeted by iPHOS are future on-board flight entertainment systems and communication with airplane-terminal, effort led by partner THALES. 



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