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 Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags EricssonNetworkingwirelesstransportationctiamobileWLANs / Wi-Fiindustry verticals

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

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

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?