Ericsson makes bus windows part of a Wi-Fi network

Translucent layers of metal inside glass windows could block outside signals and reinforce those inside

The Wi-Fi antenna that Ericsson built into the glass pane of a window is barely visible as a faint red diamond shape near the bottom of the window.

The Wi-Fi antenna that Ericsson built into the glass pane of a window is barely visible as a faint red diamond shape near the bottom of the window.

Ericsson may have a contender for oddest networking product if it commercializes the wireless bus windows it demonstrated at this week's CTIA Wireless trade show.

The windows would have built-in, translucent antennas connected to an internal Wi-Fi system for passenger use while on the road. In the example Ericsson showed at CTIA, the dual-band Wi-Fi antenna was just a square of barely visible red metal embedded between layers of glass.

The mobile infrastructure giant demonstrated the concept on the upper level of its booth at CTIA, above a showcase of other technologies designed for so-called heterogeneous networks with both Wi-Fi and cellular radios. On Tuesday, the company announced enhancements to its network management software that will allow carriers to do a better job shifting subscribers between the two systems for the best possible coverage.

Ericsson's solution had its origin in a problem for wireless users on buses, cars and trains. For insulation and sun protection, some windows are now being built with thin, translucent layers of aluminum sandwiched between glass. Combined with the metal that covers the rest of a vehicle, those windows essentially create a so-called Faraday cage, a box that blocks all outside radio waves, said Bryan Coley, a marketing program manager at Ericsson.

Travelers in such a vehicle can't get online using the outdoor cell network, because it's signals are blocked. But Ericsson researchers decided to use the metal-in-glass principle to their advantage by building antennas into the windows along with the insulating metal. Though the window antennas are simple passive antennas, each one reinforces the internal network's signal.

The resulting network becomes like an in-flight Wi-Fi system on an airliner. Passengers log in to an internal Wi-Fi network that uses a longer range technology, such as LTE, to connect to the outside world.

At the same time, using signal-blocking windows and internal Wi-Fi prevents a situation that can strain outdoor cellular networks and is one of the problems with cellphone use on planes. If an airline passenger turns on a phone, it can cause cell towers on the ground to try to connect with it, diverting bandwidth that could be used by people on the ground. A train full of passengers unknowingly trying to get on cell towers as they speed past can make it hard for carriers to manage traffic. Plus, it can quickly draw down the battery life of the phones as they work hard to grab faint signals, Coley said.

The concept could also translate from buses and trains to glass-walled office buildings, he said. In addition to strengthening an interior Wi-Fi network, such antennas could improve coverage and capacity on indoor cellular systems while easing the demands on nearby cell towers that people indoors would otherwise be using.

Stephen Lawson covers mobile, storage and networking technologies for The IDG News Service. Follow Stephen on Twitter at @sdlawsonmedia. Stephen's e-mail address is stephen_lawson@idg.com

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags mobilewirelessNetworkingindustry verticalstransportationEricssonctiaWLANs / Wi-Fi

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Stephen Lawson

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Brand Post

Imou: At home with security

Modern living is all about functionality and security for everybody from the very young to the very old. With Imou anybody can enjoy smart life – the solution is at their fingertips.

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Pope

Dynabook Portégé X30L-G

Ultimately this laptop has achieved everything I would hope for in a laptop for work, while fitting that into a form factor and weight that is remarkable.

Tom Sellers

MSI P65

This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang

MSI GT76

It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?