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Millimeter Wave vs Microwave

DFRobot Apr 28 2023 2672

Microwave and Millimeter wave communication are two distinct radio wave technologies that serve different purposes.

Millimeter wave vs micro wave

What is Millimeter Wave?

Millimeter wave, also known as mmWave, refers to a specific range of electromagnetic waves in the high-frequency radio spectrum, typically ranging from 30 to 300 GHz with wavelength range of 10 mm -1 mm, which allows for faster data transmission and higher-quality video transmission.

What is Microwave?

Microwave communication operates in a frequency range of 300MHz to 30 GHz with wavelength range of 1 m -1 mm , making it optimal for transmitting low-speed data such as voice and text over long distances.

Summaries of Millimeter and Microwave Spectrum Properties

Figure: Summaries of Millimeter and Microwave Spectrum Properties

Millimeter Wave in the Spectrum Band

Figure: Millimeter Wave in the Spectrum Band

Advantages of Microwave

There are several advantages of using microwave radio frequencies for communication:

- High Bandwidth: Microwave frequencies are capable of transmitting large amounts of data quickly and efficiently, making them ideal for high-speed communication applications.

- Line of Sight Communication: Microwave communication operates through line of sight (LOS), which means signals can be sent over long distances without any physical obstruction.

- Short Wavelengths: Microwave frequencies have short wavelengths, allowing them to pass through the atmosphere with minimal interference and signal degradation.

- Security: The focused beam of microwave signals makes them difficult to intercept, making them a secure option for communication.

- Cost-effective: Microwave communication technology is relatively inexpensive to install and maintain, making it an ideal option for organizations with limited budgets.

- Reliability: Microwave communication is highly reliable with minimal downtime, making it a popular choice for organizations that require uninterrupted communication channels.

Applications of Microwave

Microwaves can be used in multiple fields, including communication, radar, wireless television, baking food, medical, material processing, etc. In the communication field, microwaves are used for wireless communication and satellite communication. In the radar field, microwaves are used to measure position and speed. In the wireless television field, microwaves are used to transmit video and audio. In the food industry, microwaves can be used to bake and heat food. In the medical field, microwaves can be used for cancer treatment and medical imaging. In the material processing field, microwaves can be used for rapid material heating and drying.

Satellite Microwave Signal

Figure: Satellite Microwave Signal

Advantages of Millimeter Wave over Microwave

Though both mmWave and microwave fall under the electromagnetic spectrum, mmWave has several advantages over microwave technology.

- Broader bandwidths

- Higher spatial resolution

- Lower probability of interception and interference

- Smaller size of mm wave antenna and equipment

- Less weight of antenna and equipment

- More rugged and reliable mmWave systems

- Lower voltage power supplies

Applications of Millimeter Wave

There are several applications of millimeter waves (mmWaves), which are a type of electromagnetic radiation with wavelengths between 1 and 10 millimeters. Some common applications of mmWaves include:

- Telecommunications: mmWaves are used to transmit high-speed data and video in wireless communication systems, such as 5G networks.

- Imaging: mmWaves can penetrate certain materials, such as clothing and building materials, making them useful for security scanning systems. They are also used in medical imaging, such as breast cancer detection.

mmWave for Body Scanners

Figure: mmWave for Body Scanners

- Automotive: mmWaves are used in automotive radar systems to detect obstacles and help with advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS).

- Astronomy: mmWaves are used in radio astronomy to detect objects in space, such as clouds of gas and dust.

- Military and defense: mmWaves are used in military and defense applications for radar systems, missile guidance, and electronic warfare.

mmWave Radar for advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS)

Figure: mmWave Radar for advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) 

The Emergence of 5G Millimeter Wave

5G deployment has been accelerating around the world in the last couple of years and 3GPP decided to use the mmWave band for 5G networks. As a result of this the frequency band has seen an increased amount of utilization in the years to come as more telecom operators have started to adopt the standalone (SA) model.

The SA (Standalone) model is a type of architecture model for the 5G New Radio (NR) network. It is an independent deployment architecture that is not related to existing LTE networks. This means that in SA mode, the 5G NR network does not require infrastructure support from the 4G LTE network. Instead, it runs on its own core network. The SA mode is a fast way to deploy 5G networks and is suitable for regions that need to quickly provide 5G network services.

The Emergence of 5G Millimeter Waves

Figure: The Emergence of 5G Millimeter Waves

Some factors Determine the Feasibility of Using the Millimeter Waves in 5G

- Latency: Millimeter waves (mmWaves) have a higher frequency than traditional LTE services, which allows them to provide faster data transfer rates and lower latency. This means that communication between devices can happen almost instantly, providing a seamless user experience.

- Reduced Antenna Size: mmWaves are a type of high-frequency radio wave that can transmit large amounts of data quickly over short distances. Unlike other radio frequencies, mmWaves have a shorter wavelength, which allows for the use of smaller antennas. This means that more antennas can be integrated into a smaller space, allowing for advanced antenna technologies such as phase array and electronically steered antennas. With these technologies, mmWave systems can provide higher data capacity and faster transmission speeds, making them ideal for use in high-speed wireless networks and other cutting-edge technologies.

- Interference Mitigation: Due to their high frequency, mmWaves experience greater free space path loss, which limits their propagation distance. However, this also means that the frequency spectrum can be reused by multiple users in different cellular systems, as the mmWaves do not propagate far enough to interfere with neighboring cellular systems. This limited range is a key advantage of operating in the mmWave band, as it allows for reduced interference and more efficient re-use of the frequency spectrum.

- Increased Resolution: Millimeter wave has increased resolution because it has a shorter wavelength than traditional microwave radiation. The shorter wavelength of millimeter wave radiation allows it to provide better resolution than lower frequency waves when used for imaging or sensing applications.


Both microwaves and millimeter waves are types of electromagnetic waves. The frequency range of microwaves is 300MHz-300GHz, with a wavelength range of approximately 1mm-1m. Due to its has strong penetration ability, microwaves are widely used in communication technologies. In addition, microwaves are also widely used in fields such as food heating, medical diagnosis, electronic ovens, and microwave ovens.

The frequency range of millimeter waves is from 30GHz to 300GHz, with a wavelength range of 1mm-10mm. Due to its weak penetration ability but strong reflection and scattering effects, millimeter waves are widely used in remote sensing and radar detection technology. With the advancement of millimeter wave communication technology, its application in the communication field has become increasingly widespread like 5G communication technology for improving data transmission speed and network performance.

In summary, the specific applications of microwaves and millimeter waves depend on their penetration power, frequency, resolution, and other characteristics. The choice between the two will depend on the specific field and needs.