The "110 Histórias | 110 objectos" podcast of Instituto Superior Técnico revives its 110 years of history through objects of IST's past, present, and future. In episode 103, our researcher Carlos Fernandes recalls the pioneering MBS/SAMBA projects that developed the 1st ever 4G Equipment.
Few know that, in the nineties, the Instituto Superior Técnico and the Instituto de Telecomunicações already worked on broadband mobile communications in mmW. It was a pioneering effort in Europe to develop a high-bandwidth cellular mobile communications system to operate in the 60 GHz frequency bands. This took place in the context of the MBS – Mobile Broadband Systems project, (1992-1995), and the SAMBA – System for Advanced Mobile Broadband Communications project, (1996-1998) ), both funded by the European Commission. The two projects, led by Portuguese Companies, involved some of the most prominent European players in telecommunications technologies at that time.
Project Samba culminated with a "portable" terminal, about 1.10 meters high, and 60 centimeters wide (see video), weighing about 60 kilos, which was topped by two shaped beam lens antennas (see picture). The terminal was powered with 60 W using several batteries strapped to the operator's waist. The demonstration was held successfully during Expo 98, in the Utopia Pavilion (now Altice Arena).
As in any field, in Telecommunications, paradigm shifts tend to take decades to mature, Carlos Fernandes said. This proposal was quite ahead of its time in 1992 when the GSM with the almost voice-only services was just starting. The bandwidths and frequency bands of the MBS and SAMBA proposal in 1992, are only now becoming available, in the 5G.
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